on Earth Sciences and Resources of the National Academies
The National Research Council is the principal
operating arm of the National Academies and serves as an independent advisor
on scientific and technical questions of national importance.
Established in 1988, the council’s Board on Earth
Sciences and Resources (BESR) provides a focal point for National Research
Council activities related to earth science policy. Through its committees,
panels and working groups, it oversees a wide range of earth science issues,
including research, the environment, natural hazards, resources, data and
education. It also provides guidance on U.S. participation in international
earth science programs.
identifies the frontiers of basic and applied research
in the earth sciences
strengthens multidisciplinary programs and integrated
approaches to research
assesses mineral and energy resources
investigates human interactions with Earth
works to understand environmental change
investigates access to and use of scientific and
geospatial data and information
evaluates breakthrough technologies for mitigating
enhances earth-science education
BESR also responds to federal requests for
information on specific technical or policy issues. Through a combination
of technical analysis, peer review and round-table discussions, the board
provides accurate and timely input to support wise decision-making in government,
academia and industry, and to sustain the health of the earth sciences.
Current BESR activities:
Commercialization of Scientific Data: Examining
the impact of policies that restrict access to scientific data, and identifying
lessons learned from private sector involvement in collecting and distributing
Conceptual Models of Flow and Transport in the
Fractured Vadose Zone: Looking at building, testing and validating
conceptual models of flow in the fractured unsaturated subsurface.
Future Roles, Challenges and Opportunities for
the USGS: A 2020 vision of the U.S. Geological
Survey, including scientific, technical and societal issues (with the Commission
on Geosciences, Environment and Resources).
Partnerships in the National Spatial Data Infrastructure:
Determining the role of past, present and future partnership in enhancing
the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.
Processing Technologies for the Mining Industries:
Identifying the research and development needs for exploration, extraction
and processing of coal, minerals and metals (with the National Materials
Research Opportunities in the Earth Sciences:
Naming high-priority research areas, emphasizing the connections between
traditional solid-earth science disciplines and other disciplines.
Review of NASA’s Triana Mission: Reviewing
the scientific goals and measurement plans of the mission (with the Space
Studies Board and the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate).
The Science of Earthquakes: Assessing the
current state of earthquake science and the potential for future breakthroughs.
“Seeing” into Earth: Assessing current and
future capabilities of non-invasively characterizing the near-surface environment.
USGS Volcano Hazards Program: Determining
how well this program meets scientific goals and how well research results
are applied to hazard mitigation.
The board is developing a formal strategic
planning system. This system will help BESR more effectively set priorities
for earth science research, identify the role of the earth sciences in
major policy issues; and assure the quality of the science content in earth
science and education.
By making significant progress in these areas,
the board will help to build and sustain the earth sciences and their communities
in the 21st century.
De Souza is director of the
Board on Earth Sciences and Resources of the National Academies National
Research Council in Washington. He was also secretary general of the 27th
International Geographical Union Congress, director of the National Geography
Standards and editor of National Geographic Research & Exploration.