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Position Statement

GSA: Science, Stewardship, Service


Public Investment in Earth Science Research

Adopted September 2008; revised April 2011, May 2016

Position Statement
The Geological Society of America (GSA) supports strong and growing public investments in earth-science research. Earth-science research requires substantial increases in public funding from all levels of government to promote the general welfare of all citizens; to ensure the health, vitality, and security of society; and to provide sound stewardship of Earth. These investments address such issues as energy and mineral resources, water resources, climate change, and natural hazards. Earth-science research forms the basis for training and educating the next generation of earth-science professionals.

The purpose of this position statement is to (1) summarize consensus views of The Geological Society of America regarding public investment in earth-science research; (2) improve public and political awareness and understanding of how investment in earth-science research benefits society and leads to greater health and prosperity; and (3) provide recommendations for implementation of a strategy that strengthens the commitment to public investment in earth-science research by GSA and its members.


Science and technology are engines of economic prosperity, environmental quality, and national security. Public investment in research pays substantial dividends. According to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “…the economic value of investing in science and technology has been thoroughly investigated. Published estimates of return on investment (ROI) … for publicly funded R&D range from 20 to 67%” (Rising Above the Gathering Storm).

The earth sciences are critical components of the overall science and technology enterprise and require substantial increases in public funding to ensure the health, vitality, and security of society and for Earth stewardship. Earth-science research provides knowledge and data essential for developing policies, legislation, and regulations regarding land, mineral, and water resources at all levels of government. Growing investments in earth-science research will stimulate innovations that fuel the economy, provide security, and enhance the quality of life.

Scientific and Public Policy Aspects of Earth Science Research

Additional public investments in earth science research are necessary to address such issues as natural hazards, energy, water resources, rising sea level, and climate change, especially as they relate to the responsible development and maintenance of human infrastructures and the stewardship of the  environment.

Research in earth science is also fundamental to training and educating the next generation of earth-science professionals. The Geological Society of America recognizes the need to actively support policies and investments that strengthen earth-science research and research capabilities; foster research partnerships among universities, government agencies, and industry; and provide support for the education of the next generation of geoscientists.
Significant increases in earth-science research investments will help us meet challenges posed by the human impact on Earth’s natural systems. Public investment in earth-science research and education should come from national, state, and local government sources and support mission-driven government agencies as well as academic research. Policy makers must be made aware of the importance of earth-science research to the future of our nation, states, municipalities, and industry. Ironically, the need for this information comes at a time of reduced funding for earth-science research by many private companies and government agencies, and many state and federal programs supporting earth-science endeavors have been reduced or eliminated.



 Opportunities for GSA and GSA Members to Help Implement Recommendations

To facilitate implementation of the goals of this position statement, the Geological Society of America recommends the following actions:


Position Statements adopted by GSA Council may be used freely in their entirety by members in public policy discussions on the scientific issues to which they pertain.

About the Geological Society of America

The Geological Society of America, founded in 1888, is a scientific society with over 26,000 members from academia, government, and industry in 115 countries. Through its meetings, publications, and programs, GSA advances the geosciences, enhances the professional growth of its members, and promotes the geosciences in the service of humankind. GSA encourages cooperative research among Earth, life, planetary, and social scientists, fosters public dialogue on geoscience issues, and supports all levels of earth-science education. Inquiries about the GSA or this position statement should be directed to GSA’s Director for Geoscience Policy, Kasey S. White, at +1-202-669-0466 or .

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