Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:25 AM


MANHEIM, Frank T., School of Public Policy, George Mason University, 3511 Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22201,

American earth science education and research includes many excellences. But the earth sciences are part of an American research university system whose business plan is unsustainable. Escalating costs passed on to students have led to student debt of $1 trillion in federal loans, exceeding credit card and auto loans. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, claims that American research universities fell into a dysfunctional pattern that placed disciplinary interests, institutional competition, and personal advancement of faculty above preparation of students for work and citizenship, and service to society.

Universities have advantages of intellect, information and research resources. They have the time and the responsibility to study all aspects of earth and human society, provide instruction to students, and information to the larger public. They train the nation’s leaders. But if they can’t identify and fix their fundamental problems, can one expect them to provide useful guidance and solutions to the nations’ decision makers?

Reform is difficult because promotion and tenure continue to be primarily based on peer research and publication. This artificially stimulates the deluge of research publications that swamp the system. For example, the query “American earth science education” in the Google Scholar search engine returns 1.54 million titles – articles and books, not web sites. Maintaining personal and institutional status competes with focus on preparing students for meaningful work outside academia, and serving societal needs. I suggest that the earth sciences are better situated than some sciences to come up with creative approaches. It may be better to face the problems proactively – rather than face uncertain but potentially unwelcome external solutions in the future. I will review selected responses to the above problems in the U.S as well as comparisons with advanced nations' policies in Europe.