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The challenges have never been greater for linking societal and policy questions with scientifically based answers.
Recognizing the need to ensure that the USGS is in touch with its customers and their interests and concerns, the USGS executive leadership held a series of listening sessions in March and April 2000 to give customers an opportunity to present their views on future directions for USGS science in 2002 and beyond. The listening sessions were a natural outgrowth from other efforts to proactively present the USGS budget for FY 2000 and FY 2001 to the public. Primarily hosted to give USGS leadership feedback on future science directions for the coming decade, the listening sessions also provided an opportunity for a general check-up on the health of the organization in the eyes of its customers and partners. The USGS will use the feedback from these listening sessions in coming months as future science directions are refined and new initiatives are developed. Future listening sessions in the Washington, D.C., area and at locations across the country will be held in coming months and years. The USGS has found these opportunities to be a valuable way in which to keep in touch with their customers. The March-April 2000 listening sessions will not be a single dialog, but rather the beginning of a continuing conversation by the USGS with its customers.
A listening session was held with water stakeholders on March 15, 2000, in Crystal City, Va., in conjunction with joint meetings being held by several major water organizations. About a dozen representatives attended the USGS listening session, and the conversation with them is summarized as a group synopsis in this report. Two days of listening sessions were held at the USGS National Center in Reston, Va., on March 22 and 23, 2000. The 50 attendees represented 43 different organizations. Most of the attendees presented statements, which are summarized in this report. On April 3, 2000, at the Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C., another dozen customers, representing primarily the bird conservancy community, met with USGS leadership. This session was added to accommodate the schedules of members of that community who had not been able to attend earlier.
The general framework for the listening sessions was the list of topics that were under discussion by the USGS Executive Leadership Team as future science directions -- coastal environments, ecosystems, environment and human health, energy, ground-water resources, rivers, hazards, living resources, invasive species, and land surface change, with additional emphasis on products, tools, and technology in the context of up-to-date maps, imagery, and Gateway to the Earth, a portal to USGS earth and life science data. An issue paper on these topics was sent out in advance and formed the structure for the listening sessions. Many customers spoke to more than one issue, and, therefore, the synopses of presentations are presented as a simple alphabetical listing of the organizations who participated, grouped into several broad categories: Non-governmental organizations and the private sector; other Department of the Interior bureaus; other Federal and independent agencies; and the academic and related community along with regional and State customers. The synopses also include statements provided by customers who were not able to attend but wished to have their views known. Statements provided by customers to support their presentations are included in the attachments as well. Since the listening sessions, refinement of the future science directions has resulted in a reshaping of the topics into: coastal environments, earthquakes, ecosystems, energy, ground water, invasive species, land surface change, and rivers.
The intent of this report is to summarize what the USGS heard from its customers. In summarizing the conversations and ensuing dialog, we have tried to keep the focus on what was presented, not comments or reactions from USGS participants. The Executive Summary brings together the many issues and concerns of our customers, using the future science directions as the framework, as well as subjects that were frequently echoed during the listening sessions.
As the lens through which to read the report, the following paragraph is offered from the issue document on future science directions that was sent to customers in preparing for their conversation with USGS:
The topics we have set forth highlight the essential role that science plays in many of the most pressing issues facing us as a Nation and as citizens in an increasingly complex and changing world. The challenges have never been greater for linking societal and policy questions with scientifically based answers. Policy makers and managers at all levels of government need sound scientific information on which to base their decisions and on which to judge the outcome of those decisions. We are looking to you, our customers, to help us ensure that our direction for future program growth is on target, will meet your needs, and will serve those greater societal and policy needs well.