FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact David Applegate: (703) 379-2480
June 14, 1996 E-mail: govt@agiweb.org

Report Focuses on Key Opportunities for Integrating Biology Into the U.S. Geological Survey

ALEXANDRIA, VA -- The congressionally mandated consolidation of the Department of the Interior's science functions into a single agency provides an opportunity for increased interdisciplinary collaboration, according to a report released today by the American Geological Institute (AGI). The report is the product of a workshop held this February at which representatives from 17 geoscience and bioscience societies addressed the implications of integrating the National Biological Service (NBS) into the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A list of participants is included.
The report pinpoints opportunities for integrating a biological component in with the USGS's current geological, hydrological, and cartographical components. It calls on the USGS to develop a new vision to guide the agency, one that incorporates all of its diverse disciplines and research areas. A fundamental aspect of that vision, according to the report, is the continued separation of the Survey's science from regulatory functions within the Interior Department. At the same time, the report cauti ons that high-quality science must remain the basis for regulation and sound resource management.
The purpose of the workshop, which was chaired by AGI President Robert D. Hatcher Jr. and held at the American Geophysical Union headquarters in Washington, D.C., was to provide input to Congress and the Interior Department from a cross-section of t he scientific community affected by this consolidation. Attendees were briefed by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, USGS Director Gordon Eaton, NBS Director Ronald Pulliam, and other USGS and NBS officials before breaking up into smaller discussio n groups. The report reflects the deliberations of the workshop participants, and an earlier draft was circulated for comment from others in the USGS and NBS user community.
Workshop participants identified five areas of opportunity for strengthening the USGS by taking advantage of the integration:
1. Credibility and quality assurance of scientific information: Both agencies bring unique strengths in this area to the merger. The agency must take advantage of the quality assurance standards developed by the USGS and the external peer-review syst em developed by the NBS.
2. Integration of information across disciplines and cross-disciplinary training: Consolidation should facilitate better integration and synthesis of information across disciplines. Cross-disciplinary training will improve the ability of scientists in different disciplines to communicate with one another, reducing response time for resource management decisions.
3. Research agendas based on natural boundaries: The unique federal role of the USGS gives it the flexibility to address scientific questions related to land management at whatever scale is necessary, regardless of artificial (i.e., political) boundar ies.
4. Development of data collection and analysis and of information technologies: Integration offers the opportunity to better coordinate geological, hydrological, and biological databases and organize them using the USGS's geographic information system (GIS) expertise.
5. Assessment of "hot spots" and anticipation of environmental problems: Addressing "hot spots" (areas such as the Everglades where environmental conflicts have come to the fore) requires cooperation between earth and biological scientists to provide the kind of integrated problem-solving necessary.
The workshop participants developed three major recommendations in addition to the need for a new vision to guide the USGS:
1. Develop interdisciplinary initiatives and budgets that will produce new approaches and solutions to problems: The USGS must follow industry's lead in forming multidisciplinary teams to seek solutions for well-defined, specific problems. Mechanisms must be developed to encourage communication across disciplines while maintaining the core strengths of the agency.
2. Encourage partnerships and alliances with federal and state agencies, universities, museums, and the private sector: Even with the addition of a biological component, the USGS still has a number of gaps in its ability to address environmental and r esource management problems. Workshop participants identified a variety of potential partnership arrangements that could augment the Survey's own expertise. Partnerships are an excellent tool in their own right but are particularly important in tight fi scal times.
3. Implement regional and national stakeholders councils: The USGS needs to develop mechanisms for increasing input from its partners and customers. Stakeholder councils are an effective means of developing support for Survey programs and for regiona l initiatives. Up front "buy-in" will also produce much-needed political support.
The consolidation of the NBS into the USGS was mandated by Congress as part of the fiscal year 1996 appropriations process and is to be completed by October 1, 1996. This report is part of an ongoing effort on the part of scientific societies to prov ide input into the consolidation process.

To receive a copy of the intersociety workshop report, contact Dr. David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs, American Geological Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; 703-379-2480; fax 703-379-7563; govt@agiweb.org.


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