Aging doesn’t suit my lifestyle, but here I am, “emeritus” at two institutions−the University of Kansas and the American Geographical Society−and “former” at UCGIS and elsewhere. From such a lofty vantage, I should be able to offer several respectable observations, but which single thought is worthy of this opportunity that UCGIS has given me? I believe it resides in a phrase, “clerks of science,” that captures the greatest unaddressed threat looming for geographic disciplines and fields.
Since 1993 I’ve said advances in geography could position our discipline to play a major role in important issues, such as global change or the restructuring of east European economies and societies. In contrast, advances in GIS alone are likely to cast us as clerks handling data for the geologists, biologists, ecologists, political scientists, economists, and other current leaders in these topics. Only by joining the fray of science theory and occasionally “drawing blood” will we establish ourselves as a respected force in the upper echelons of science, science policy, and public policy influenced by science. Meanwhile, many conventional theories—developed in isolation by specialized disciplines with little thought for geographic relationships, spatial logic, or scientific integration—have stood unchallenged for decades.