Supply and Demand Vectors of the Next Generation of Geoscientists

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When discussing workforce issues, particularly in terms of the near and mid-term future, understanding the issue of supply dynamics and the immediate vectors into meeting demand are critical.   These are areas in which the American Geological Institute has tracked for over 50 years, and is currently expanding the scope and intensity of analysis.   The issue of supply dynamics in the geosciences is more complex than most of the community recognizes.  The field is naturally interdisciplinary and so too is the pool of entrants to the workforce and the viable and sustained source of new geoscientists.  For example, though many geosciences departments have closed in the last 10 years, more have actually entered our field – a few brand new geology programs, but also the evolution of outside programs like biology and geography entering our field, employing faculty, and producing students that enter the profession.   Likewise, many traditional bastions of both education and employment in the geosciences are seeing increased multidisciplinary involvement and “fade” from the center of the profession.

Yet even with this diversity of supply and demand vectors, several issues remain as critical barriers to the long-term health of the profession.  The geosciences continue to shrink as a proportion of society and campus.  A number of drivers will be outlined, including diversity and technology issues.   Though female participation in the geosciences are second only to biology as a science field of study, women as faculty members continues to remain at the same level as it was in 1973.  Likewise, minority participation remains catastrophically low even as underrepresented minorities enter college in rapidly increasing numbers.  Failures to engage these growth populations in the geosciences is linkable to a number of structural factors that will be outlined.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Geological Society of America Annual Meeting 2008