Geology & Geophysics AGU News

AGU Makes Strides in 2019 Union Awards, Medals, and Prizes

Nominations of and accolades earned by women climb to representative rates within the AGU community.

By and Susan Lozier

Each year at Fall Meeting, AGU honors a distinguished group of scientists by conferring the Union medals, awards, and prizes. These individuals are recognized for their “significant contributions to the Earth and space sciences through scientific research, education, communication, outreach, and sustained impact.”

Although AGU represents more than 60,000 scientists from 130-plus countries, demographic analysis of past award honorees has shown that when controlling for career stage and other factors, women have been underrepresented among awardees. This concern was raised last year by the Council Leadership Team when it reviewed the awards packages for 2018. The Council Leadership Team observed indicators of implicit bias and a skewed nomination pool. Responding to this concern, the volunteers who spearhead our honors and recognition efforts developed a collaborative and multitiered plan to address this issue. The AGU Council actively engaged in deepening the nomination pool for 2019. We are proud to say that this work is paying off. Including these 2019 recipients, women have received, on average, nearly 30% of the Union awards, medals, and prizes over the past 5 years, a fraction quite representative of the scientists within the AGU community.

Chart showing gender and residency demographics of AGU’s Union Award Medal and Prize Honorees from 2014 through 2019This shift is the result of several factors. Last year, the Honors and Recognition Committee set several plans into action, including the following:

  • Expanding the pool of nominations by creating canvassing committees to broaden networks, identify individuals who are overdue for an AGU award, and recruit and expand the pool of nominators
  • Making implicit bias training part of the selection committee process
  • Enhancing the overall process by providing a best practices guide to selection committees
  • Diversifying the selection committees in terms of gender, career stage, geography, and discipline
  • Looking more deeply at the data and developing methods for setting targets for awardees based on demographics

We congratulate the Honors and Recognition Committee for its work to help create a more inclusive culture, and the Council for its help fostering this culture. To keep the momentum going and to ensure that the awards process is impartial and equitable, we invite you to take part in a Fall Meeting workshop that addresses how to put together a successful nomination package, and/or check out the online guidelines.

AGU awards, medals, and prizes are the highest honors our community bestows upon our peers. The AGU community stepped up this year by both improving the process and increasing the number of nominations. Together we will all celebrate the inspirational talent and creativity that fuel the discoveries in Earth and space science with these impressive scientists.

AGU is now accepting nominations for the 2020 Honors program. This change in the opening of the nomination cycle was made to allow AGU members additional time to nominate candidates and to help further grow the diversity of the program. For a deeper dive into the demographic data of the Honors program, please view the latest Honors Diversity Report.

—Robin Bell ([email protected]), President, AGU; and Susan Lozier, President-elect, AGU

Citation: Bell, R., and S. Lozier (2019), AGU makes strides in 2019 Union awards, medals, and prizes, Eos, 100, Published on 04 November 2019.
Text © 2019. AGU. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
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