Effects of the Global Economic Crisis on Geoscience Departments

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From the end of 2008 through the early part of 2009, an increasing number of representatives from academic institutions began expressing concerns about the viability of their geoscience programs in the face of cutbacks due to the economic downturn. To etter assess this situation, the American Geological Institute added an optional survey as part of the 2009 Directory of Geoscience Departments update process.

The survey consisted of five questions that pertained to impacts of the economic downturn on geoscience departments. This report provides a snapshot of these impacts as of March 2009 both internationally and within the United States. A regional analysis for U.S. eoscience departments for all institutions and by institution type is also provided.

Key Highlights:

  • 83% of geoscience departments expect budget cuts for 2009 and/or 2010.
  • Budget cuts are expected to impact faculty (reductions and hiring freezes) and support activities (IT, lab equipment, etc.) the most.
  • Graduate student admission and graduate student support will be least impacted.
  • The majority of departments expect to be viable beyond the next three years.
  • Several U.S. geoscience departments reported "definite" or "immediate" threats to their viability or future beyond the next three years. No international departments reported this level of crisis.
  • Most budgets are expected to be cut by up to 10 percent in the next 12 months (when compared to the 2008 budget).
  • Within the U.S., geoscience departments in the South are facing the largest impacts, while departments in the Midwest are weathering the crisis the best.
  • Internationally, 71% of geoscience departments expect budget cuts in 2009 and/or 2010, with the most reductions occurring in support (IT, lab equipment, etc.) and reduction in lab / field trip activities.
  • Only 24 percent of international geoscience departments feel that their future is "possibly" threatened beyond the next three years.

Top: Types of expected reductions due to the economic downturn.

Middle: Expected percentage decrease in budgets over the next 12 months.

Bottom: Budget cuts and departmental viability.

Source: AGI Geoscience Workforce Program