In Memoriam: Dr. Peter Fox


The AGU community is saddened by the passing of Dr. Peter Fox, who served as editor-in-chief of Earth and Space Science and was the first AGU fellow in the Earth and Space Science Informatics Section.

Dr. Fox was known as a pioneer in informatics, particularly within the Earth and space sciences, and for his contributions to developing this discipline. He was also known for his playful sense of humor, his seemingly endless energy and the way he always made time to help others, including as a generous and kind mentor to students and partners alike and a dedicated AGU volunteer.

Dr. Fox joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2008 as the Tetherless World Constellation Chair, and taught at the school as a professor of Earth and Environment Science, Computer Science and Cognitive Science. He also served for seven years as the director of the school’s IT and Web Science Program, from 2012 to 2020.

He had previously served as the chief computational scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and as a research scientist at Yale University. He also served as an adjunct scientist for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and was a past president of both OPeNDAP and Earth Science Information Partners.

Dr. Fox used his work to help advance the use of data across areas of scientific research — “fundamentally changing the way scientists approach the data they collect,” according to Rensselaer School of Science Dean Curt Breneman. In his work, Dr. Fox partnered with NASA, NOAA, the USGS and many other organizations and groups worldwide.

Dr. Fox became the Editor-in-Chief of Earth and Space Science in 2019 and developed further the leadership role that the journal had in advancing practices around open science. His recent thank-you note to the journal’s 2020 peer reviewers highlighted the publication’s focus on the usefulness of findings.

Dr. Fox’s work was widely recognized. In addition to being an AGU Fellow, Dr. Fox was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018. He was awarded ESIP’s Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement award, which recognizes leadership, dedication and collaboration in advancing Earth science; and the European Geosciences Union’s Ian McHarg Medal, which recognizes distinguished research in information technology applied to Earth and space sciences.

The number of lives that Dr. Fox touched was shown in the number of people who reached out with concern after he missed a meeting last week, or wrote to say they had recently spoken or emailed with him. His death is a true loss for AGU, but his legacy of always pushing forward to the next innovation will live on. Other remembrances of Peter’s lasting impact are provided here, here and here.

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  1. Mahmoud Elhussein

    I am deeply saddened by the recent passing of Prof.Dr/ Peter Fox, the editor in chief of the Earth and Space Science Journal. I just now knew this bad news, It is a great loss for losing a great professor.
    My heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and Earth and Space Science Journal.

    Mahmoud Elhussein
    Lecturer at Geophysics Department
    Faculty of Science
    Cairo University.

  2. Walter Goetz

    Incredible, – I just learned it now! I only knew Peter Fox as editor for the journal Earth and Space Science! But what an editor! Different and better than all the the others. Between Xmas 2020 and Jan 1, 2021, he looked at my manuscript (still to be submitted at that time) and gave me valuable “pre-submission advice”. I got emails in the middle of the holidays. I truly felt his passion and energy, when reading his messages (it seemed like he, indeed, supported my manuscript). It was great fun to discuss back and forth, – by the way with quite some humorous comments here and there. It was just wonderful. … And now I have to read this … These comments come almost 8 months after his passing. Maybe somebody will read these lines, maybe not, but it is my wish to share these lines with the community!
    Walter Goetz, Max Planck institute for Solar System Research, Göttingen

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