NSCSS – SSSA Efforts To Strengthen Soils Profession

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In a collaborative effort the National Society of Consulting Soil Scientists (NSCSS) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) are working together to explore avenues to further strengthen the soils profession. Since 2007 the economy has not been compassionate to the soil or geoscience professions at the private, academic, or public levels. Nationally, certain geographic areas and sectors have been affected worse than others. This economy gives pause for our profession to contemplate and be critically introspective as to what is being done right or wrong.

One bright spot is the funding of scholarships to encourage highly qualified candidates to enter and pursue the soils profession. During the ASA-SSSA meetings in November - 2009, Pittsburgh, PA the initial NSCSS - SSSA scholarships were awarded to AnnaRose Adams of Oregon State University, and Priscilla Woolverton of Oregon State University. Scholarship funding is critical during these times, and both recipients have genuinely expressed their sincere gratitude and need for these scholarship awards.

Another positive during the ASA-SSSA Pittsburgh, PA convention was a productive meeting between the NSCSS and SSSA Executive Committees to discuss past and future issues confronting the soil science profession. We discovered our concerns and proactive suggestions were mutually quite similar. NSCSS and SSSA representatives will continually meet in the future to define, agree, and act upon commonly achievable goals. General goals involve academic structure, professional recognition, competition or respect from peer and non-peer professions, professional organization, and licensing / certification issues. During this meeting the NSCSS - SSSA also agreed to maintain our Chapter and MOU status with one another. There is definitely strength in numbers to effectively coordinate these efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

The viable practice of professional soil science has its' work cut out for us in the future. Starting at the academia level there is a need for graduates with a core basis in the geosciences (soils, agronomy, geology, forestry, etc), versus the very broad environmental educational degree programs. Internally and externally, soil science and the geosciences have a severe identity problem as to recognition by the public and in policy making. The various geoscience professions have much more in common than differences relative to competing non-geoscience professions. While there are bright spots, in most locations the application of soil science is quite narrow and needs diversity as to its' application and practice. A recognized national / international certification is needed for the professional and ethical business practice of soil science. The many local, State, National, soil / geoscience organizations, and their members, need to work in a collaborative effort for the health of the profession as a whole, rather than as splintered groups.

Like most businesses, the profession of soil science has been greatly impacted by the recent economy. This is an opportunity to learn from the past and build for the future. If you have further constructive ideas or recommendations please let us hear from you. I highly recommend all soil and geoscience professionals to attend the March 3 - 6, 2010 NSCSS Annual Meetings at Amelia Island, Florida where many of these issues will be discussed further.