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Position Statement

GSA: Science, Stewardship, Service


Expanding and Improving Geoscience in Higher Education

Adopted October 2011; revised May 2016

Position Statement
The Geological Society of America (GSA) affirms the need for strong support for geoscience departments and programs at all institutions of higher learning. Robust geoscience programs equip students with the scientific literacy required to address crucial societal issues and planetary challenges, including the rising demand for minerals and energy, guaranteeing ample supplies of clean water, protecting communities from natural hazards, managing soils to ensure secure food supplies and resilient infrastructure, the opportunities and threats from a changing ocean, confronting climate variability, and managing waste to maintain a healthy environment. Providing geoscience instruction that is accessible to all higher-education students is vital to developing the scientific literacy that all of society needs in order to address the significant challenges facing the planet.

The purpose of this position statement is to (1) summarize GSA’s consensus views on the role of geoscience education in institutions of higher learning; (2) highlight future environmental and resource issues that will provide great impetus and opportunity for geoscience programs to significantly increase enrollments; (3) stress the importance of investment from governments, the private sector, and higher education institutions in collegiate earth-science education; and (4) provide a communication tool for use by GSA and its members to discuss why a strengthened commitment to geoscience education is critical to future global prosperity.


Natural and human-induced hazardous events in the early twenty-first century have significantly increased the visibility of the earth sciences to the general public. The occurrence of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, the Tohoku‐Oki earthquake and tsunami (which triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster) in 2011, and the recognition in 2015 that human-induced earthquakes have led to a previously unforeseen hazard to Oklahoma have increased public understanding of the important roles filled by geologists. Citizens and public officials also increasingly recognize the implications of climate change, the development and finite supply of mineral and energy resources, and dwindling supplies of clean water. These issues challenge our technology and infrastructure, and they require solutions by integrated teams that rely on geoscientists, thus underscoring the importance of strong education, professional competency, and widespread literacy in the geosciences.

The importance of geoscience education in institutions of higher education (2-year college through 4-year college/university level) is multifaceted.

Societal and Public Policy Aspects of Earth-Science Education

As the challenges facing our planet increase in magnitude and urgency, there will be a pressing need for science-based decisions to maintain the well-being of citizens, sustainability of vital resources, and the economic security of all nations. Geoscientists play an important role in helping to solve these problems through innovative research, public communication, and interdisciplinary work with specialists in other fields. GSA supports strong and increasing public investment in geoscience education by government. Current public investment in geoscience education is insufficient to meet future demands for skilled geoscientists. State and federal governments have a responsibility to increase funding for earth-science education to ensure that the necessary expertise exists in the future. Higher institution geoscience education is crucial for workforce development in key fields that face a significant shortage of highly qualified geologists ready for employment:


 Opportunities for GSA and GSA Members to Help Implement Recommendations

To strengthen geoscience programs at colleges and universities, The Geological Society of America recommends that:


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 .

© The Geological Society of America, Inc.