Desert dust, both modern and ancient, is a critical component of the Earth system. Atmospheric dust has important effects on climate by changing the atmospheric radiation budget, while deposited dust influences biogeochemical cycles in the oceans and on land. Dust deposited on snow and ice decreases its albedo, allowing more light to be trapped at the surface, thus increasing the rate of melt and influencing energy budgets and river discharge. In the human realm, dust contributes to the transport of allergens and pathogens and when inhaled can cause or aggravate respiratory diseases. Dust storms also represent a significant hazard to road and air travel. Because it affects so many Earth processes, dust is studied from a variety of perspectives and at multiple scales, with various disciplines examining emissions for different purposes using disparate strategies. Thus, the range of objectives in studying dust, as well as experimental approaches and results, has not yet been systematically integrated. Key research questions surrounding the production and sources of dust could benefit from improved collaboration among different research communities. These questions involve the origins of dust, factors that influence dust production and emission, and methods through which dust can be monitored.