Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE): Summary of U.S. Geological Survey URGE Pod Deliverables

Circular 1515
Coastal/Marine Hazards and Resources Program
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is in a unique position to be a leader in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the Earth sciences. As one of the largest geoscience employers, the USGS wields significant community influence and has a responsibility to adopt and implement robust, unbiased policies so that the science it is charged to deliver is better connected to the diverse communities it serves. Meaningful and effective improvements in implementation of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility principles made within the USGS will be seen across the geoscience community. Despite this opportunity, however, the community, including the USGS, has struggled to diversify the geoscience workforce, which does not reflect the Nation’s diversity. This disparity suggests that the implementation of past policies did not achieve their desired outcomes in sustainable ways.

The persistent lack of diversity across the geosciences and the racial justice protests of 2020 motivated a group of geoscience scholars to launch a global, virtual initiative known as Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) in the winter of 2021. The 16-week facilitated URGE curriculum was designed to highlight existing literature, share expert opinions, and foster discussion within groups (pods) around the world to build action plans for affecting change within their home institutions (https://urgeoscience.org/). Whereas most of the approximately 4,500 participants were university faculty and students or from professional societies and nonprofit organizations, 6 pods totaling over 120 participants from the USGS joined the program—the largest participation of any Federal science agency.

Summarizing the recommendations of over 100 USGS employees across the USGS who participated in URGE, this Circular represents a grassroots plan for making the USGS workforce more diverse and inclusive. To identify how peer-reviewed best practices could be implemented at the USGS, participants read existing literature, reviewed USGS policies and procedures, explored new and existing demographic data, and listened to and discussed primary interviews with scholars, all facilitated by the URGE program. This Circular leverages the efforts and momentum of the USGS URGE participants to catalyze and support positive, systemic change throughout the organization in a holistic way that represents an achievable departure from past policies that fell short of success. These recommendations are starting points. Reflecting the overall lack of diversity in the USGS workforce, the USGS URGE participants were predominantly White, meaning recommendations in this document can and should continue to evolve to include the lived perspectives and input from the broader USGS community. Finally, this summary document only highlights some of the key findings of these working groups. Additional details that may be more suitable to specific USGS Centers and programs can be found in the primary documents developed by each USGS URGE pod; a list of all registered pods can be found at https://urgeoscience.org/pods/.

Suggested Citation

Morriss, M.C., Snow, E., Miselis, J.L., Waite, W.F., Barnhart, K.R., Ellis, A.P., Herdman, L.M., Moran, S.C., Putman, A.L., Reitman, N.G., Stovall, W.K., Eagle, M.J., and Phillips, S.C., 2024, Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE)—Summary of U.S. Geological Survey URGE pod deliverables: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1515, 23 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1515.

ISSN: 2330-5703 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Past Efforts and Current Workforce Demographics
  • Our Way Forward
  • An URGE-Inspired Plan for Progress
  • URGE and Diversity at USGS
  • Recommendations
  • Conclusion
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. U.S. Geological Survey Unlearning Racism in Geoscience Pod Deliverables
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE): Summary of U.S. Geological Survey URGE pod deliverables
Series title Circular
Series number 1515
DOI 10.3133/cir1515
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description iv, 23 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details