Curt Tilmes
Curt Tilmes

Dr. Curt Tilmes is a worthy recipient of the Falkenberg Award because of his excellent contributions to the discipline of data stewardship, which is fundamental for ensuring long-term access to and usability of Earth science data and for ensuring the credibility of scientific research using such data. This nomination is in recognition of his sustained accomplishments in Earth science informatics over a period of more than 15 years, especially in ensuring the credibility of ­data-​­derived science.

Dr. Tilmes just completed a ­2-year detail from NASA to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, where he was the technical lead for the nascent Global Change Information System (GCIS). Initially considered an almost impossible task, given the number and variety of organizations that hold the relevant data sets, the first deployment of GCIS has occurred, focusing on data sets used in the National Climate Assessment, which is a major congressionally mandated report. This system provides a unified Web-based source of authoritative, accessible, usable, and timely information about climate and global change for use by scientists, decision makers, and the public. It helps provide a solid foundation for answering Earth science questions of global interest regarding climate change by facilitating access to data and associated documentation that support conclusions in scientific literature. Such access is essential to ensure the credibility of scientific conclusions. The breadth of Dr. Tilmes’s work goes across 13 U.S. agencies that hold data relevant to global change, and the impact of his work is global.

Dr. Tilmes has extensive and well-recognized experience in developing, operating, and managing data and information systems, as well as leading committees with a focus on data stewardship. Examples of this experience include his work at the Goddard Space Flight Center since 1994 on satellite data-processing systems for the Earth Observing System missions and the Suomi National Polar Partnership mission and his chairmanship of the Data Stewardship Committee of the U.S. Federation of Earth Science Information Partners.

In summary, Dr. Curt Tilmes has made very significant contributions to science through his work in data systems development and Earth science informatics. His system development activities have provided access to a large body of Earth science data from NASA’s missions. His research in Earth science informatics, especially provenance, and leadership in data stewardship are expected to increase the credibility of conclusions and policies derived from Earth science data products.

—Ruth Duerr, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Science, University of Colorado Boulder
—Hampapuram K. Ramapriyan, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


I’m humbled to join such a tremendous group of scientists that have received this award since it was established and awarded posthumously to Charles Falkenberg in 2002. Charles was in my office at Goddard Space Flight Center discussing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (ODIS) data processing system with me not long before the tragic events that took his life and those of his family. He was passionate about Earth science and its benefits for society, and he also valued the contributions from the data management and computer science side of the house.

I thank AGU, the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) Federation, and the Falkenberg Award review committee for their consideration, and especially Rama and Ruth for nominating me.

I would like to think this award gives some recognition of the importance of traceability of science and some validation of our efforts to present the formal provenance and relationships that support the knowledge derived from Earth observation data. I consider such an effort critical to understanding the source and ultimately providing credibility for that knowledge.

I’m grateful for my time at the U.S. Global Change Research Program working with the Global Change Information System and National Climate Assessment teams. I look forward to continuing to interact with those tremendous teams in the future.

I could not have accomplished this work without the considerable contributions and keen advice from dozens of colleagues from NASA, other federal agencies, and interagency committees and working groups, as well as wonderful organizations like AGU and the ESIP Federation. Building on the work of many others and existing data systems at NASA, I consider Global Change Information System (GCIS) the fruition of much research and discussion over many years.

I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the hardship my work and schedule often causes to my family and thank them for their solid support and willingness to put up with me.

—Curt Tilmes, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D. C.

Citation: AGU (2015), Curt Tilmes receives 2014 Charles S. Falkenberg Award, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO022965. Published on 30 January 2015.

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