Proposal: Geoscience

Interpretations differ as to whether geosciences include space and planetary science. From the list of AGU journals or the 2012 list of EGU General Assembly sessions, it probably should. However, it may not be clear to all whether this is included or not. In my experience, space and atmospheric sciences are quite related and often at the same university department or scientific institute, for example:

Even if literally speaking, GEO-sciences relate to Earth, the field does in practice extend to the solar system, as atmospheric science can be conducted on Venus and geology on Mars, but it's still Geoscience. Many topics are shared between the two, for example, the Radiative Transfer equation originates from the study of stars, but is of utmost importance for Earth observation. We can learn about Earth by studying other planets, and the Earth interacts with the space around it, not least with the Sun. Therefore:

I propose to explicitly include Space Physics and Planets in the Geoscience proposal. More precisely, I propose to follow the scope as lined out by the different sections in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Comments and discussions welcome :).

See also: Would it be worth including space & planetary sciences? [in Astronomy & Astrophysics]

  • I will withold my judgement until this gets a broader response, but I would point out that while I agree with the inclusion of planetary sciences, to me at least, the term "space sciences" largely relates to astronomy and cosmology. I see these fields as closer to physics than earth/environmental sciences, as that is how they are taught in Australian universities. I would be interested to see if anyone could provide an argument against including astronomy and cosmology, that is able to draw a plausible and firm threshold between the fields.
    – naught101
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:00
  • It's also worth noting that Earth sciences and space science are separate high-level categories in wikipedia, although that said, space science is also a sub-category of meteorology, so who knows... :)
    – naught101
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:07
  • One could follow JGR.
    – gerrit
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:11
  • That looks useful, although I am unsure of some of the categories in the first section. Does "interplanetary and external solar physics" cover astronomy, or aspects of it? Obviously there's never going to be a hard and fast rule here, but my feeling is that if this general site gets up, there is potential for it to split into multiple sites later, and if that happens, astronomy would be the first to go, partly because it has a large following, but also because it is furthest from the Earth, if you know what I mean...
    – naught101
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:16
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure astronomy is off-topic in JGR, but I can't exactly formulate the boundary, as I would expect extrasolar planets to be on-topic. I think helioseismology would be on-topic, solar system formation would be on-topic, but stellar formation off-topic. But I'm not sure and I don't exactly know how to formulate the limits.
    – gerrit
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:19
  • As long as it's about the processes involved in planets, then it doesn't really matter whether they're solar or not. It's more the identification and discussion of billions of celestial objects and constellations that I'm concerned about. I guess gas giants might start stretching the margins, but what are they other than planets with really cool atmospheres? Sounds like a very viable solution. If you propose the JGR sections as guidelines for the scope definitions, I'd vote for that.
    – naught101
    Oct 17, 2012 at 13:24
  • I agree that we should work to keep it open. When enough users from a community subset are involved, they could start a new community. This is about about a large cross disciplinary resource. Nov 6, 2012 at 20:59
  • 1
    As a student who studies exoplanetary atmospheres - I can definitely say that most of the work in that is done in geoscience departments rather than astronomy departments (although it's often the methods used that determine which department someone is ultimately placed in). See the affiliations of Jim Kasting, Ray Pierrehumbert, etc... Nov 27, 2012 at 1:25
  • rule of thumb: space science - science of exosphere, plasma environment, and magnetic field lines of bodies and the interactions of such; cosmology - science at really big scale of the universal horizon, and structures that span the universe, and forces and matter, and equations of motion that dominates the universe ; astrophysics - science specifically of stars, nebulae, dust disks, galaxy, nuclei ... ; geoscience - science of a particular planet (geology of mercury is perfectly valid) ; planetology - general science of planets
    – Sean
    Dec 28, 2012 at 18:17

1 Answer 1


As an AGU member that's affiliated with the 'space sciences', I'll point out that AGU has no Astronomy or Cosmology in it. That would fall under the American Astronomical Society (of which I'm an associate member).

If you look at the AGU sections, they lump space sciences into what they call 'SPA', which to my knowledge is the only section with sub-sections:

  • SA : Aeronomy
  • SH : Solar & Heliospherc Physics
  • SM : Magnetospheric Physics

Of course, AGU is the American Geophysical Union, and so doesn't actually many geoscience topics that would likely be on-topic for this proposal, such as environmental and geochemical sciences.

Personally, I'm against putting heliospheric (aka 'solar system') science into this proposal as long as it's called 'geosciences'. I'm tired of being a second class citizen, with the AGU IN (Earth and Space Science Informatics) group always putting together session proposals for 'Earth Science', ignoring space sciences. It's possible that Aeronomy and the ITM folks might feel differently, as they have a closer afinity (shared coordinate systems, data file formats, etc.), so they might have a different opinion.

  • I think in either case, the boundary may be hard to define. What about the Earth ionosphere, Earth magnetosphere, and their interaction with the Sun (e.g. Solar-Terrestrial Physics). Is that Geoscience?
    – gerrit
    Oct 20, 2012 at 16:48
  • 2
    @gerrit : I'd say that the primary determining factor is what you're actually trying to study. Solar-Terrestrial I'd say is geoscience, as it's mostly about how the sun affects the earth, with the earth being the primary item of interest. If you're instead looking at 'space weather', then it's heliophysics, even when you're looking at the same data.
    – Joe
    Oct 21, 2012 at 4:16

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