[Comment on “Opportunities for research in the geological sciences”] Geologic research opportunities



I read with great interest the recent account in Eos of the National Research Council's Board of Earth Sciences (BES) report on “Opportunities for Research in the Geological Sciences,” and find the report to be an excellent summary of exciting research areas in continental geology (Eos, December 20, 1983, p. 985). However, the title of the report implies that the earth sciences as a whole are treated, and as such the report is plagued by several glaring omissions. It is important that these omissions be recognized because, as mentioned in Eos, this report will be used by government administrators to set priorities for future emphasis in federal funding.

The neglected topics include marine geology and geophysics, plate tectonics, paleoceanography, and paleoclimatology. Ironically, these may have been neglected because research in these areas has been so successful in the last 2 decades. As an aftermath to the extraordinary breakthrough related to marine geology and plate tectonics in the 1960s and 1970s, there has developed an atmosphere that I call the “post-plate-tectonic blues.” Indeed, the discovery and verification of plate tectonics is a tough act to follow, and so it is natural for the pendulum to swing toward important problems in continental geology. While such a swing is an understandable response to the last 2 decades, it is dangerously short sighted.