Geotimes

From the Editor

“If you build it, they will come.” In his role in the film Field of Dreams, Kevin Costner portrays a character who answered this call by plowing under his cornfield, building a ballpark and waiting patiently until it filled with a dream team of past major leaguers. “Is this heaven?” one of the former legends asks. “No,” responds Costner. “It’s Iowa.”

Over the years, perhaps less mysteriously, we have built geoscience departments — in many respects, great ones. Yet in an age of globalization of our industries and increasing international membership within our societies, we remain one of the least diverse communities of professionals among the sciences. Almost all of us can relate to this issue in some way. My undergraduate institution had 80 geoscience majors. Fewer than a quarter were female, and all were white. With this is mind, our annual geoscience education issue of Geotimes features articles from individuals and organizations that embrace what diversity can do for the geosciences and pursue programs geared toward understanding diversity and enriching our community through diversity.

In our first feature, Suzanne O’Connell, Lisa White and their colleagues report on two programs funded through the National Science Foundation’s Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences program. White’s SF-ROCKS program couples faculty and geoscience majors at San Francisco State University with teachers and students at select Bay Area high schools. On the other side of the continent, we find Suzanne O’Connell and her colleagues working with the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science. In “Connecting with the River,” O’Connell outlines the program’s goals, preliminary results, and how her team is adapting the program to meet the recruitment challenge. Both efforts are localized: They focus on water quality issues, which make the programs relevant to students’ lives and the local curriculum. Both efforts are also systemic, involving multiple levels of the education system, and are connected to national science education goals while complementing the participating school’s course of study. And both could become model projects that geoscience departments across the country can review and adopt.

In our second feature, Jill Karsten of the American Geophysical Union examines the nature of the diversity issue (more to the point, the challenge of defining the diversity issue) and highlights outcomes that stemmed from spirited and focused discussion at the Joint Society Conference on Increasing Diversity in the Earth and Space Sciences. The conference, convened earlier this summer at the American Center for Physics in the Washington, D.C., area, examined how scientific societies can promote diversity in the geosciences, with special emphasis given to increasing recruitment and retention of women, minorities and persons with disabilities. In a sidebar to Karsten’s piece, Roman Czujko and Megan Henly of the American Institute of Physics boil down the available statistical data on diversity in the geosciences into numbers that are compelling and shocking. If you are wondering why we include women in our definition of diversity as it applies to the geosciences, Mary Anne Holmes and colleagues will clear up any misconceptions in a sidebar, about the status of women in the geosciences. Clearly we have a long way to go.

Rounding out our issue on enhancing diversity is Comment author Don Byerly, who for years has judged earth science entries for AGI at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). Byerly points out that the number of earth science contest entries in ISEF 2003 ranked 12th out of 14 different categories of entries. He calls for geoscientists to contact local schools and get involved in mentoring in science fair projects.

As guest editor, I would like to thank all of our authors, not only for sharing their stories, but for their vision and resolve. Imagine diversity in the geosciences, and how our entire profession would benefit. Now that would be heaven.

Michael Smith
Guest Editor
Director of Education, American Geological Institute



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