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2006 Customer Listening Session: Acting Director's Remarks

Pat Leahy, Acting Director of USGS, provided opening remarks for the listening session. He emphasized the importance of past listening sessions to the Survey, which he has attended for several years.

For example, from one past session, USGS gained insights into the applicability of its work to human health issues and, as a result, conducted a workshop with other health agencies to get their perspectives about earth science’s role in human and public health. USGS also put together an internal group led by a human health coordinator to maintain linkages with other agencies. Further, USGS contracted with the National Academy of Sciences along with the National Science Foundation and NASA to look at these same issues. Their report is expected to be published soon. After the 2004 Listening Session on Reducing the Risk of Natural Hazards, USGS used the information to establish an initiative to focus work within this area, now seen as even more important in the wake of recent natural disasters. The President's budget includes funding to conduct a pilot study on multiple hazards in Southern California. He noted that key lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina include the need for robust monitoring networks with the capability to interpret and deliver information in a timely manner and the need for more effective and robust partnerships.

Acting Director Leahy outlined the context and scope of the current Listening Session. He highlighted three common themes from a series of National Research Council reports that encourage the USGS to: use the Survey's diverse resources and capabilities more directly and in concert to address societal problems, set priorities more strategically, and build on and further develop stronger and more innovative partnerships. He noted that USGS has been successful in developing elegant, well thought out plans at the programmatic level, but that it still needs an overarching, integrated view of the strategic priorities of the USGS as a whole. Thus, he formed a Science Strategy Team (SST) with a charge to develop a science strategy, not a strategic plan, which will identify opportunities to draw on the best that the USGS already does and find ways to use those strengths in concert to meet future societal needs. Acting Director Leahy explained that the purpose of this listening session is to gather input on the science framework the SST created and to identify ways programs and capabilities can be "mixed and matched" to better address societal issues. The SST will use the input gathered at this session, as well as its other activities, as it prepares a report by August 2006.

In closing, Acting Director Leahy summarized the key questions for which USGS is seeking responses: 1) What are the significant societal issues/challenges that USGS should be addressing; 2) What general factors should USGS use to set priorities to make impacts scientifically and socially; and 3) Are the science questions appropriate? Are there gaps in the questions?

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