Read through Gov. Napolitano’s State of the State address given today and you’ll see that science is central to much of what she proposes.
Her themes are Education, Foundation, and Innovation - Education with a focus on expanding math and science in K-12; Foundation means infrastructure and includes ensuring we have the water resources to support our growing population; and “Innovation Arizona will create an environment that attracts high-wage businesses, allows thinkers and entrepreneurs to flourish, and cultivates success. [It] is going to continue to build on the work we’ve begun to transform Arizona into a center of research by continuing the necessary funding to foster Science Foundation AZ to success.”
Arizona’s earth scientists have an important role in dealing with the consequences of growth – demand for water and minerals, creation of risks associated with natural hazards, and environmental impacts. The Governor’s Global Climate Change initiative also needs earth science input for monitoring and analysis but also for finding locations for possible geological sequestration (i.e., permanent burial) of carbon dioxide.
And while many think primarily of biosciences when we talk about attracting new high-tech industry or incubating the next success story here, we should be looking at one of Arizona’s existing scientific strengths – the earth sciences.
Gov. Napolitano singled out the Arizona Water Institute as an R&D center that will continue to get state attention. AWI co-housed with SAHRA (Sustainability of semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas) at the UofA. [My colleagues at NSF tell me SAHRA is one of the most highly regarded Science and Technology Centers the organization funds]. The AWI operational model is in my view amazingly robust and innovative. AWI has principals on each of the three state universities. Plus, they are embedding strong personnel in each of the major state agencies.
The SAHRA-AWI combo is emerging as a global leader in innovative approaches to water resources. It could be the poster child of scientific (and organizational) innovation in Arizona.