Numerous scientific advances indicate that geoscience is entering a new era for real-time integrative and interdisciplinary Earth system innovation. Geoscientists have been continually making gratifying progress in many fields of the Earth sciences with findings filling gaps in our knowledge about the Earth and how it works, as well as other findings directly associated with the sustainable development of our society. One of the fastest-growing research fields worth mentioning is data-driven geosciences. The tools and technologies of the digital revolution combined synergistically with transdisciplinary and integrative efforts are boosting innovation and discovery in fundamental and applied earth science research. Digital revolution and societal sustainable development have indeed become central to global science as is reflected in the strategic challenge domains of International Science Council (ISC) and UN programs. In view of the trend of digital revolution and challenges faced by governments and professional organizations to contribute to the transformation of earth science in the big data era, at the 72th IUGS EC meeting held in Potsdam Germany January 2018, President Qiuming Cheng proposed to establish IUGS Big Science Programs and Centers of Excellence, which aim to increase public awareness and education, international collaboration, open data sharing, and transdisciplinary research (Fig. 1). Big science programs should meet the following criteria.
Proposal for the IUGS Big Science Program and the center of excellence was presented at the 72nd IGC EC meeting held in Postam January 2018 (a). A topic of Deep Earth (Deep understanding of deep past to the future of the Earth-DDE) was proposed by President Cheng at the first General Assembly of newly formed ISC in Paris July 1, 2018. Leaders of several GeoUnions presented at the ISC SG (b).
(1) Global and major issues.
(2) International collaboration.
(5) Collaboration with ISC, UNESCO etc.
(6) Promotion in underrepresented nations.
International collaborations are required and encouraged in establishing any big science program, especially among IUGS members including adhering national and regional committees and affiliated international associations. The primary areas of consideration include, but are not limited to, (ⅰ) integration of data science and Earth science focusing on major Earth science questions such as converging plate boundary dynamics and their effects on natural resources, environment, hazards and human resilience, (ⅱ) big data discovery for resources assessments on the African continent, and (ⅲ) predictability of extreme geological events such as earthquakes, volcanos and landslides. Over the past several years, President Cheng and his colleagues took all opportunities of attending numerous conferences and other occasions to promote new IUGS initiatives. President Cheng introduced the IUGS initiative at the Council Meetings of many organizations such as the Geological Society of America (GSA) in 2017, at the 24th Council Meeting of the Association of Iberoamerican Geological and Mining Surveys (ASGMI), which was attended by the leaders of 22 geological surveys, at the Session on "Changing Role of Geological Surveys" at the RFG2018 conference attended by several national geological surveys (GSC, USGS, BGR, BGS, Japan, Finland, Norway, Australia etc.), and at Sessions of Directors of Geological Surveys at the China Mining Expo and ASEAN Mining Forum attended by directors of several geological surveys and Ministries of Mines including the Organization of African Geological Survey (OAGS) which is an organization comprising Geological Surveys of 54 nations in Africa. President Cheng has also consulted and interacted with most of the national committees of IUGS such as US National Academy of Science, Indian Academy of Science, and most of the geological surveys. In addition, the IUGS initiatives have been presented to affiliated International association members and other international organizations at their annual conferences, council meetings and celebrations such as the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) 100 annual celebration, International Association for Mathematical Geosciences (IAMG) 50th Annual Celebration, EGU General assembly and AGU annual meeting, just to name a few. The IUGS initiatives were also discussed with ISC, UNESCO and the GeoUnions. A test bed topic on Deep Earth (Deep understanding of Deep past to the future of the Earth-DDE) was proposed by President Qiuming Cheng at the first General Assembly of ISC in Paris on July 1, 2018. The main effort was to convince organizations to collectively develop proposals for establishing IUGS big science programs with the primary objective of sharing new knowledge and developing cutting-edge technology to tackle global issues, as well as solving current problems facing numerous countries. An article titled "A New International Initiative for Facilitating Data-Driven Earth Science Transformation" authored by President Cheng and Past President Roland Oberhänsli and published by Geological Society of London (GSL) elaborates on the details of the rationale and evolution of the initiative. The main objectives are for transforming Earth science from human learning to integration of human learning and artificial intelligence, including machine-learning, as well as from answering known questions seeking unknown answers to seeking unknown questions with unknown answers.