Expert Report

Fostering Transformative Research in the Geographical Sciences (2015)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Transformative research drives science forward by redefining entire fields of study, forming new research communities, and even launching new industries. Such research brings great rewards, but also carries risks for funding agencies that are challenged to identify, at their earliest stages, those projects that have the potential to yield transformative results. By reviewing how transformative research emerged in the past, the report identifies several factors that could help nurture such groundbreaking projects in the future, including the open sharing of ideas, rapid dissemination of findings, and breaking down institutional barriers between disciplines. Applying these ideas specifically to the geographical sciences and the National Science Foundation's Geography and Spatial Sciences program, the committee recommends actions that would help maximize the agency’s research investments toward transformative research. These include designing awards to help foster the potential for transformative research among young scientists; emphasizing policies and programs that increase ethnic, age, and gender diversity among researchers; recognizing the importance of research collaboration among nations, disciplines, and sectors; and exploring novel approaches for developing and reviewing funding proposals.