Update: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences

Update: The video of Roger Down’s presentation (a Penn State Geography Coffee Hour to Go) is up here. Also, the report is available for download.

—- original post 4/26/10—-

This National Academies Press publication officially by "the Committee on Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences in the Next Decade; National Research Council," which itself has several names familiar to me and likely to readers (Goodchild for one, Dawn Wright for two plus folks from my academic life at Chicago and Penn State) is in pre-publication. Understanding the Changing Planet: Strategic Directions for the Geographical Sciences defines four key research topics which include 11 strategic directions.

How to understand and respond to environmental change:
·    How are we changing the physical environment of Earth’s surface?
·    How can we best preserve biological diversity and protect endangered ecosystems?
·    How are climate and other environmental changes affecting the vulnerabilities of coupled human-environment systems?
How to promote sustainability:
·    Where and how will 10 billion people live?
·    How will we sustainably feed everyone in the coming decade and beyond?
·    How does where we live affect our health?
How to recognize and cope with the rapid spatial reorganization of economy and society:
·    How is the movement of people, goods, and ideas changing the world?
·    How is economic globalization affecting inequality?
·    How are geopolitical shifts influencing peace and stability?
How to leverage technological change for the benefit of society and environment:
·    How might we better observe, analyze, and visualize a changing world?
·    What are the societal implications of citizen mapping and mapping citizens?

I do like that these are big, cross-disciplinary issues that geography can bring some special perspective on. I do not think the questions can be effectively answered by geography alone. That said, the last one certainly looks to me like geographers should take the lead.

While the report would be an interesting read, more valuable to many, I suggest, is the Coffee Hour presentation Roger Downs gave on the report (he was on the committee and was my advisor at Penn State). It should be online for replay soon; I saw it live on Friday. The value in his presentation is that he explains how geography is perceived within the beltway and the challenges geography faces in getting funding. He also notes the handful of people (4) who have power related to geography in Washington.

- press release

Published Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Written by Adena Schutzberg