From the Editor

Welcome to the sixth annual special issue on geoscience and public policy. Every year, we use the April issue to look at how the spheres of geoscience and policy interact.

National parks are a showcase for this country’s geologic splendor, but decisions on how to manage these federal lands often lack adequate geoscience input. Dave Shaver, who heads the National Park Service’s Geologic Resources Division, and Jim Wood provide their perspective on current efforts to enhance the role of geoscience in the parks.

In our second feature, Maeve Boland examines the congressional science fellowship program, which takes a direct approach to improving interaction between scientists and policy-makers. Each year, AGI and several of its member societies sponsor geoscientists to work as a staff members on Capitol Hill. These congressional scientists not only provide their scientific expertise, but also learn first-hand how Congress works. As this article shows, the value of the program for the participants and the geoscience community lasts years after a fellowship is over.

When the first of these special Geotimes issues came out in 1996, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had just survived a budget crisis and the threat of elimination. Today, the USGS and other federal science agencies face another budget crunch. Our third feature discusses two new reports from the National Research Council that make strong cases for funding both the Survey and earth science research at the National Science Foundation. These reports will help geoscientists make the case to Congress and the new administration for future public investments in the work of these agencies. In the case of USGS, the new report complements several internal strategy documents, most notably the USGS Geologic Division’s excellent science plan (visit  pubs.usgs.gov/circular/c1172).

In Political Scene, Margaret Baker takes a look at how research and development funding at geoscience-related agencies has fared in the past several years in light of President Bush’s determination to limit the growth in government spending. Far from unrestrained growth, these programs’ funding histories  show a clear under-investment.

Finally, public policy will always be influenced by public perception. Two new volcano books, reviewed here by Wally Johnson, could have a big effect -- for better or worse -- on how the public views geoscientists and geologic hazards. The books address the 1993 eruption of Galeras in Colombia, which killed several volcanologists who were on a field trip into its crater. The books are bolstered by considerable marketing campaigns from their publishers, with movie rights not far behind. Geotimes has a special connection to this topic. While still recovering from his terrible wounds, trip leader Stanley Williams wrote his first full account of the event in our June 1993 issue.

I hope that every reader will take away some nugget that helps motivate them to become a more active citizen-scientist.

David Applegate

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