AGU journal commentaries highlight importance of Earth and space science research

20 April 2017

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Geophysical Union (AGU) today published a collection of more than 25 essays as commentaries in its scientific journals highlighting the important role Earth and space science research plays in society.

The essays, covering a broad swath of scientific disciplines and written by notable scientists in their fields, discuss the critical role of research, the growing importance of data and the increasing globalization of the scientific enterprise. Together, they highlight how Earth and space science research can help grow our economy and enable our society to thrive. An overview of the special collection is detailed in a blog post by AGU’s journal editors, and AGU’s director and assistant director of publications.

The collection comes as science is increasingly under threat in the United States and around the world and ahead of Saturday’s March for Science. AGU is one of nearly 200 partner organizations that have joined with science advocates, science educators, scientists and concerned citizens to advocate for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding and inclusivity as part of the March for Science.

The special collection includes:

The future of planetary defense
About 70 percent of the near-Earth objects large enough to cause severe regional damage have yet to be discovered. While the chance of an impact is small, the consequences can potentially be severe, so reasonable measures, such as finding, tracking and characterizing the asteroids should be undertaken, writes Amy Mainzer, senior research scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Water and life from snow: A trillion-dollar science question
Snow is critical in sustaining human life. It provides water and plays a key role in the climate through its unrivaled power to cool the Earth. It is also changing rapidly. In Water Resources Research, Matthew Sturm and Charles Parr, geophysicists at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Michael Goldstein, a professor of finance at Babson College, provide a strong rationale and guidelines for accelerated snow research that will allow society to make major impending decisions related to snow resources on the soundest base and best scientific knowledge.

Essential science for understanding risks from radiation for airline passengers and crews
Cosmic ray fluxes will likely be the highest since the dawn of the aviation age during the upcoming solar minimum, a low point in the solar cycle when weak solar activity provides less protection against cosmic rays entering the atmosphere. Considering this, measuring high-altitude radiation doses and turning those data into useful information for aviation operators, schedulers and frequent flyers will provide support for key decisions, according to Delores Knipp, a researcher professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, in a commentary in Space Weather.

Earthquake science in resilient societies
A commentary in Tectonics by Timothy Stahl, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan and co-authors from the University of Michigan and the University of Colorado Boulder, explores the scientific pathways through which earthquake-resilient societies are developed. They highlight recent case studies of evidence-based decision making and how modern research is improving the way societies respond to earthquakes.

Solving water quality problems in agricultural landscapes: new approaches for these nonlinear, multi-process, multi-scale systems
Changes in climate and agricultural practices are putting pressure on agro-environmental systems all over the world.  Patrick Belmont, an associate professor at Utah State University, and Efi Foufoula-Georgiou, a distinguished professor at the University of California – Irvine, present a perspective, gained from a decade of research and stakeholder involvement in the Minnesota River Basin, where research findings have influenced solutions and policy in directions not obvious at the outset. Their essay appears in Water Resources Research.

Science, society, and the coastal groundwater squeeze
Scientific advances in the field of coastal hydrogeology have enabled responsible management of water resources and protection of important ecosystems. To address the problems of the future, we must continue to make scientific advances, and groundwater hydrology needs to be firmly embedded in integrated coastal zone management. This will require interdisciplinary scientific collaboration, open communication between scientists and the public, and strong partnerships with policymakers, according to Holly Michael, an associate professor at the University of Delaware and co-authors, in a commentary in Water Resources Research.

A case for Planetary Health/GeoHealth
The simultaneous emergence of the terms “GeoHealth” and “Planetary Health” from the earth science and health communities, respectively, signals recognition that developing a new relationship between humanity and our natural systems is becoming an urgent global health priority – if we are to prevent a backsliding from the past century’s great public health gains. Achieving meaningful progress will require collaboration across a broad swath of scientific disciplines as well as with policy makers, natural resource managers, members of faith communities and movement builders around the world, write members of the Planetary Health Alliance in GeoHealth.


The American Geophysical Union is dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity through its scholarly publications, conferences, and outreach programs. AGU is a not-for-profit, professional, scientific organization representing 60,000 members in 137 countries. Join the conversation on FacebookTwitterYouTube, and our other social media channels.  


Notes for Journalists

The special collection is open and free to read. The collection can be found here:

Journalists and PIOs may also order a copy of any of the final papers by emailing a request to Nanci Bompey at [email protected]. Please provide your name, the name of your publication, and your phone number.

Neither the papers nor this press release is under embargo.

AGU Contact:

Nanci Bompey
+1 (202) 777-7524
[email protected]