16 October 2019
By Robin Bell, AGU President and Susan Lozier, AGU President-Elect
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.”
While 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 amongst awardees. This concern was raised last year by the Council Leadership Team when they reviewed the Award 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 & Recognition efforts developed a collaborative and multi-tiered effort 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, females have received on average nearly 30% of the Union Awards, Medals, and Prizes over the past five years, a fraction quite representative of the scientists within the AGU community.
This shift is the result of several factors. Last year, the Honors & Recognition Committee set several plans into action including:
- 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 practice 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 & Recognition Committee’s work to help create a more inclusive culture and the Council in their help fostering this culture. To keep the momentum and 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 both by improving the process and increasing the number of nominations. Together we will all celebrate the inspirational talent and creativity that fuels the discoveries in Earth and Space Science with these impressive scientists.
Editors Note: AGU is now accepting nominations for the 2020 Honors program. This change in the opening of the nominations 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.