The International Union of Geological Sciences, with endorsement by UNESCO, has established a taskforce on global geosciences workforce and has tasked the American Geological Institute to take a lead. Springing from a session on global geosciences at the IGC33 in Oslo, Norway, the taskforce is to address three issues on a global scale: define the geosciences, determine the producers and consumers of geoscientists, and frame the understandings to propose pathways towards improved global capacity building in the geosciences. With the combination of rapid retirements in the developed world, and rapid economic expansion and impact of resource and hazard issues in the developing world, the next 25 years will be a dynamic time for the geosciences. However, to date there has been little more than a cursory sense of who and what the geosciences are globally and whether we will be able to address the varied needs and issues in the developed and the developing worlds. Based on prior IUGS estimates, about 50% of all working geoscientists reside in the Unites States, and the US was also producing about 50% of all new geosciences graduate degrees globally. Work from the first year of the taskforce has elucidated the immense complexity of the issue of defining the geosciences, as it bring is enormous cultural and political frameworks, but also shed light on the status of the geosciences in each country. Likewise, this leads to issues of who is actually producing and consuming geoscience talent, and whether countries are meeting domestic demand, and if not, is external talent available to import. Many US-based assumptions about the role of various countries in the geosciences’ global community of people, namely China and India, appear to have been misplaced. In addition, the migration of geoscientists between countries raised enormous questions about what is nationality and if there is an ideal ‘global geoscientist.’ But more than anything, the taskforce is revealing clear global trends in geosciences education, both at the pre-college and university level and frame the state of health of geosciences education in the United States in a totally new light. But indicators are present that the developing world will likely overtake the developed world in the near future in the production of geoscientists, but a key question is will that fundamentally change the nature of the science given the social, cultural, and educational frameworks that the next global generation brings with them.
- American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2010