The National Academy of Sciences has released a report on "Ten Questions Shaping 21st-Century Earth Science". The good news: we have a future (if you didn't already know that). The bad news: my proposed line of research isn't a question (funding will be hard this century...).
Seriously though some of these questions seem intractable or outside the realm of earth science. For instance "How did life Begin?" strikes me as more of a biological question. Sure, portions of geology can help inform the question, but that doesn't mean it is a central theme to the earth sciences. Imagine a biologist giving a talk about mantle plumes, or a physicist giving a presentation about the Ordovician extinction. And the whole looking at mars and other solar systems for life's origin seems a bit of a reach, unless it can be determined we started there. Analogies are useful and all, but surely there is a limit to how far you can drag one out.
I also like the reasoning behind "Earth's dark Age (the first 500 Ma)". It is among the 10 questions to shape earth sciences because "scientists have little information because few rocks from this age are preserved". I mean c'mon, we have hardly touched the surface of what we have PLENTY of data from. It is like saying "we kinda have a fuzzy image for the most recent 500 Ma, now lets get down to some serious arm-waving!"
I would address the extinctions one in more detail, but honestly everyone should know where I stand on that utterly INTRACTABLE question. Instead I will point out there may be some room for improvement in almost all these areas, but I don't think that is enough to state what the questions shaping the future of geology are.
Looking back at the early 20th century, who would have been willing to predict what the next big wave in geology would be ~70 years later? A "crazy" guy named Wegener, even though he had no mechanism, and that is really about it. I don't think it is possible to predict where the paradigm will lead, or when a shift will occur. Which is why things like this perplex me. Thanks DOE, NSF, NASA, and USGS. I assume we have validated our existence for the next 100 years
Bureaucracy, what a trip.