Future Challenges in Mineral Sciences
“We aim to identify 100 mineralogical questions that, if answered, would have the greatest impact on resolving current and future challenges in the Earth, planetary, environmental and material sciences.”
Defining the major future research challenges in the mineral sciences will provide a real opportunity to demonstrate the critical importance of our discipline to a wide audience of academics, funding agencies, politicians and the public. It will reveal not only the healthy nature of the mineral sciences, its strategic thinking, but also how it is an essential contributor to human prosperity. Other disciplines have undertaken such exercises and they have proved very successful in demonstrating the international nature, range and relevance of those disciplines to the academic community and beyond. Such exercises can influence the future research agenda and enable scientists to engage with funding bodies to agree funding priorities. In the current climate of funding scarcity, coupled with the ever-increasing demand to demonstrate the societal “impact” of our research, it is essential that we raise the profile of mineralogical research and demonstrate how it contributes to solving key Earth science problems, both fundamental and applied. This initiative will allow us to talk with authority when dealing with the funders of our research, especially government agencies and industry, and convey the importance of what we do (and why they should pay us to do it!).
Often the role of mineral sciences is either unvalued or unidentified. So what are the key scientific questions for mineralogists to address over the next 10 to 20 years and what is the best way to convince someone to give us the resources to pursue them?
This exercise seeks to identify 100 mineralogical questions which, if answered, would have the greatest impact on resolving the Earth, planetary, environmental and applied science challenges that we face over the coming decades. The challenges facing Earth scientists are relatively well defined (e.g. climate change, energy security, resource sustainability, environment protection, waste management, geological hazards, etc.). What is less well appreciated (by the funding bodies at least) is that many of these challenges have a key mineralogical component and that they require the unique knowledge, insight and expertise of mineral scientists in order to overcome them. These mineralogical challenges, especially the more applied ones, overlap with other disciplines such as materials research and the investigation of industrial minerals. In these areas the role that mineralogists do and can play is certainly under recognised. By identifying these issues explicitly, and framing them in terms of well defined, answerable scientific questions, we will significantly raise the profile of mineral sciences, emphasising its importance not only to the funding agencies and policy makers, but to the public at large. This is a chance for the mineral-science community to define what it stands for, and restate its central importance within the wider scientific community.
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