The Geochemical Earth Reference Model (GERM) initiative is a grass-root effort with the goals of establishing a community consensus on a chemical characterization of the Earth, its major reservoirs, and the fluxes between them. The GERM initiative will provide a review of available scientific constraints for: (1) the composition of all major chemical reservoirs of the present-day Earth, from core to atmosphere; (2) present-day fluxes between reservoirs; (3) the Earth's chemical and isotopic evolution since accretion; and (4) the chemical and isotopic evolution of seawater as a record of global tectonics and climate. Even though most of the constraints for the GERM will be drawn from chemical data sets, some data will have to come from other disciplines, such as geophysics, nuclear physics and cosmochemistry. GERM also includes a diverse chemical and physical database and computer codes that are useful for our understanding of how the Earth works as a dynamic chemical and physical system. The GERM initiative is developed in an open community discussion on the World Wide Web (http://www-ep.es.llnl.gov/germ/germ-home.html) that is moderated by editors with responsibilities for different reservoirs, fluxes, databases, and other scientific or technical aspects. These editors have agreed to lay out an initial, strawman GERM for their respective sections and to moderate community discussions leading to a first, preliminary consensus. The development of the GERM began with an initial workshop in Lyon, France in March, 1996. Since then, the GERM has continued to be developed on the Internet, punctuated by workshops and special sessions at professional meetings. A second GERM workshop will be held in La Jolla, CA USA on March 10-13, 1998.