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The following two posts were copied from Dr. Reilly's Monday Message and describe his vision for the USGS science over the next 10 years.

21st Century Science—Preparing for the Future

April 1, 2019
Science Planning and PolicyDirectorMonday Message

Now is the time to take stock of where USGS science will go in the next decade to ensure that we respond to 21st century challenges with 21st century science and technology.

The USGS is entering a new technological era with the potential to deliver transformational natural science. A revolution is underway in ground, air, and space-borne sensors, and we now have access to expanding crowd-sourced data capable of providing essential natural science data at unprecedented spatial and temporal resolutions. On-demand storage, processing hardware, and software are changing the paradigm for scientific computing and analysis, allowing scientists to adapt to the age of Big Data. The historical and contemporary natural science data and targeted research for which we are known will be paired with the ongoing explosion in information technology (IT) capabilities to catalyze new types of analysis and enhance our knowledge.

Over the last few months, we have discussed organizational changes intended to position the USGS for the challenges and opportunities ahead. Now is the time to take stock of where USGS science will go in the next decade to ensure that we respond to 21st century challenges with 21st century science and technology. This 21st Century USGS vision embraces an integrated and predictive capability that accounts for complex natural system interactions; anticipates the likelihood and consequences of evolving threats and hazards; and helps guide resilient adaptation and mitigation efforts. Along with our partners in the federal science enterprise, state partners, and academia, the USGS will step boldly into the next few decades by delivering advanced science products to further our Nation’s prosperity and ensure our citizens’ safety.

As we approach the 75th anniversary of a report to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Science the Endless Frontier, the Director of the White House Office of Science Technology and Policy (OSTP), Kelvin Droegemeier, has suggested that the United States is entering the second bold era of science. In his talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 2019 Annual Meeting, he described the need for a new strategic framework as we enter the next era of science. This framework includes longer-term planning horizons, cross-portfolio integration, and innovative partnerships among the “whole of the science community”— including private sector, academia, non-profits, and government—as well as safe research environments that lead to greater diversity.

For the USGS to play a vital role in this endeavor, we must engage in longer-term planning. In 2020, we will begin the next major step in the evolution of USGS’s service to the Nation with an effort to further integrate the components of our natural science and IT portfolios. Stewardship of the Nation’s land, water, mineral, energy, and ecosystem resources involves weighing complex tradeoffs among multiple and often competing objectives. Increasingly in the 21st century, resource managers and decision makers need “the whole USGS”—integrated multi-disciplinary natural science data, research, geospatial tools, predictive models, and support tools to inform their decisions.

At a time of accelerating environmental and societal change, the gap is expanding between the comprehensive natural science expertise and decision analysis tools that the Nation requires and what the USGS currently provides. The interaction of profound environmental, technological, and societal trends that will play out over the coming decades must shape our long-term direction and vision. These trends will alter:

  • patterns of supply and demand for energy and mineral resources,

  • management of the Nation’s lands and natural resources,

  • vulnerability to natural hazards,

  • threats to water security and availability,

  • emerging diseases affecting wildlife and human health, and the

  • resiliency of critical or unique ecosystems.

These trends require greater integration of historical and contemporary data and scientific capabilities.

At the executive leadership team’s (ELT) Spring Science Planning meeting being held April 9-11, we will discuss a roadmap for a 2030 vision of an integrated predictive capability to close the gap between our current capabilities and what the Nation needs. This capability will build on the EarthMAP concept put forward by the Council of Senior Science Advisors (COSSA)-led workshop in 2017. The EarthMAP concept is a bold and potentially far-reaching “system of systems” approach to integrating all of our natural science activities. EarthMAP spans scientific boundaries and requires investments in data integration, high performance computing, artificial intelligence, modeling, analytics, laboratory facilities, visualization, and decision-support tools.

The EarthMAP concept takes advantage of the USGS’s strengths and our unique position as a science organization with expertise spanning the full range of natural science disciplines, our “boots on the ground” presence, our collaboration with stakeholders, and our national and international scope and responsibilities. We will continue to work across disciplines to innovate scientific data collection and interpretation that provide essential inputs to EarthMAP and ways to test and improve the effectiveness of our predictive modeling. Over the next decade, we will take advantage of advances in sensor technologies, integrated modeling, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and high-performance computing to observe, understand, and project change across spatial and temporal scales in real-time and over the long term.

Enhanced integrative capabilities and technology will be necessary to answer the increasingly complex, interdisciplinary, and computationally intensive scientific questions that are most important to the Nation and the world. Recognizing and embracing this new paradigm presents tremendous opportunities for the USGS to lead the natural science community in the decades to come and to contribute to a holistic understanding of our Earth as a system of systems. Our future success will be determined by the decisions and investments we make in our people, technology, and scientific research in the coming years.

These are exciting times and opportunities! As always, I look forward to your thoughts and suggestions.

Jim Reilly

originally posted at [USGS internal access only]

Being a Part of Preparing for the Future

May 6, 2019
Science Planning and Policy, Director, Monday Message

In my April 1st, Leaders Blog post, 21st Century Science—Preparing for the Future, I wrote to you about the future of this new technological era to deliver transformational natural science. I am excited about the opportunities that exist for us and want to update you on the steps we have taken since the beginning of April to set the course for our work.

Our first major step was to focus the discussions at the Executive Leadership Team’s (ELT) science planning meeting on the roadmap for a 2030 vision of an integrated predictive capability to close the gap between our current capabilities and what the Nation needs. We dedicated time to understanding the future of information technology, the emerging technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the major components of the vision—Data Lake, Integrated Predictive Capability (EarthMAP), and Actionable Intelligence.   

The foundation for this vision is the integrated earth system characterization science done by all USGS mission areas. The major components of the vision are described as:

  • The data produced by USGS science will be integrated into a comprehensive data lake that will be readily available internally and externally, embrace all relevant data, and evolve to accommodate the changing definition of data.
  • The USGS will develop, test, and apply an integrated predictive science capability (EarthMAP) that incorporates data, interpretations, and knowledge spanning discipline boundaries, geographies, and sectors.
  • EarthMAP will provide actionable intelligence that can be utilized via dashboards and applications (APPs) to enhance situational awareness, provide new operational capabilities, and inform decision making.

We came out of that meeting with a common understanding of a 21st century science vision and the concerns, challenges and opportunities as we move forward. The dialog was enthusiastic and I left the meeting all the more energized to be a part of this endeavor.

As a next step, last week we hosted a meeting with senior leaders across USGS to discuss the science vision and provide them an opportunity to ask questions. This meeting paves the way for the next set of discussions with the ELT and and a group of subject matter experts that will be held May 14 - 16, 2019, at an off-site at the National Conservation Training Center (NCTC).

The NCTC will provide an excellent backdrop for the level of engagement that this plan deserves and requires. During our meeting we will:

  • Use Water Prediction Work Program (2WP) and the Wildland Fire Program as topical examples of crucial needs for integrated predictive science. As part of this application, we will work to:
    • Identify needs and opportunities for cross-mission area contributions to the integrated predictive science capability.
    • Identify key stakeholders and their needs for these two examples.
    • Describe the scientific and technical requirements (e.g., key data sets, analytical methods, interpretive capabilities, information technology infrastructure, expertise) of the model, and key uncertainties that require further development
    • Envision a process by which the two examples could be developed into an integrated predictive science capability
  • Identify work groups to move forward on the planning for a design charrette for the first version of the USGS integrated predictive science capability.

These discussions are vital in helping us achieve our 21st century science vision. Over the coming months, we will continue to define the roadmap that will help achieve our first goal:  

By 2030, the USGS will deliver well-integrated observations and predictions of the future state of natural systems—water, ecosystems, energy, minerals, hazards—at regional and national scales, working primarily with federal, state, and academic partners to develop and operate the capability.  

I look forward to sharing the results of these discussions through future Leaders Blog posts and employee meetings. This effort is truly more than the sum of the individual parts—I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and perspectives with your supervisors, center directors, regional or mission area directors, and with me, through

Jim Reilly

originally posted at [USGS internal access only]

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  1. Just in case you missed the hyperlink buried in there, the original EarthMap "white paper" is here: