Institutional and student surveys carried out in 1992 and 2004 suggest that soil science education is experiencing a significant decline in the United States and Canada. The present article reports on the data obtained in these surveys, particularly the fact that the enrollment in MSc and PhD programs in soil science in US and Canadian universities in 2004 was approximately 40% less than that in 1992. Some of the possible causes of this drop are analyzed in detail, such as the tendency of soil science education programs to keep emphasizing the agricultural side of soil science (i.e., its connection to crop production), despite the open intention of most students to pursue careers dealing predominantly, or at least in part, with environmental issues. It is argued that measures could still be taken by soil science educators and soil scientists to revert the downward trend in enrollments. Among these are licensing soil scientists, being vigilant about oversimplifications and misrepresentations of soil processes by researchers in other disciplines, expanding the scope of soil science and actively promoting its achievements, and making sure that the public at large is aware of the intrinsic, challenging complexity of soils and that it mandates a unique pluridisciplinary approach. We believe that if some of these measures were adopted, soil science could relatively and rapidly regain its place in the pantheon of science.
1Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Bradfield Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-1901. Dr. Philippe Baveye is corresponding author. E-mail: Philippe.Baveye@cornell.edu.
2Département des sols et de génie agroalimentaire, Pavillon Comtois, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada G1K 7P4.
3Department of Biology, Dominican University, 7900 W. Division St., River Forest, IL 60306.
4Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, USDA-ARS, Building 3702, Curtin Road, University Park, PA 16802-3702.
Received Sept. 29, 2005; accepted Jan. 31, 2006.