3 December 2018

Inspire the Next Generation of Earth and Space Scientists: Support the Austin Endowment for Student Travel

Posted by Joshua Speiser

Carlos A. Dengo, AGU Development Board Chair

Carlos A. Dengo, AGU Development Board Chair

A new year is just around the corner. And with it comes the promise of new beginnings and opportunities for personal and professional growth. 2019 is also AGU’s Centennial year – a time for our community to celebrate the scientific advances made in Earth and space science over the past 100 years.  For me, the advent of Centennial leads me to consider how we can make sure that our science will prosper and contribute to society for the next century.

I believe that to flourish in the years ahead, we must take steps now to expand AGU’s membership, transcend our traditional demographics and cultural boundaries, and create a more diverse and global community. We must support young scientists who are eager to join our ranks and help them to overcome whatever may stand in their way. These young men and women have the potential to become the next generation of leaders in Earth and space science. They will bring innovative ideas and cultural perspectives. They will bring a surge of new energy and scientific expertise to face the great issues of tomorrow – something science and society needs. But only if we are able to open the door for them.

It is imperative that members of AGU commit to developing this next generation by making a personal commitment to invest in and support them. That is why I am asking you to join me in donating to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel Grant Challenge.

Last October, scientist and AGU Development Board member Jamie Austin issued a challenge to the AGU Earth and space science community. Recognizing the life-changing potential of Fall Meeting, Dr. Austin generously offered to match all donations to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel to AGU’s Fall Meeting up to the amount of $1 million.

Fall Meeting is much more than an annual science meeting. It is the largest annual gathering of international Earth and space scientists in the world where researchers who span generations and scientific disciplines join together to advance the scientific enterprise. It is a place where a young scientist can hear about the latest work of leading researchers in their field and also present their own work – some for the first time – to their peers. It is a place where lifelong professional connections and relationships, some of which influence their professional careers, are built and strengthened. It is a place where ideas are exchanged that spark new research, and where those who want to explore science communications, learn about science policy advocacy. It is a place to discover career opportunities and find support. Virtually nowhere else can a young scientist – or for that manner a scientist of any age or career stage – experience all of these opportunities in one place.

However, for young scientists who are still in school or freshly graduated and likely saddled with student debt and/or without a good income, the expense of traveling to and registering for Fall Meeting can be prohibitive. As a result, many miss out – and we miss out.

No doubt there are many worthy organizations and causes that you may be considering for your donations. I ask that you consider the current landscape of the funding for the Earth space sciences in making your decision about where to give. Historically, science has been viewed through an apolitical lens where it has been valued for global, far-reaching contributions that benefit humanity. Of late, however, the environment for scientific funding has grown less hospitable, less generous. And, as this gap in funding has grown even larger, the impacts are particularly far-reaching for young scientists who are at the precipice of entering or remaining in the field of Earth and space sciences.

Finally, I wish to make a distinction between membership and philanthropy. By donating to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel you transform from a passive transactional state – a member who attends meetings, reads or perhaps contributes to journals or Eos, etc. – to an active state – a philanthropist who is shaping the very future of our field for years to come. You can play an essential role in ensuring the future of our dynamic community.

With your support, we have the opportunity to create a fund of $2 million to support students attending AGU Fall Meetings for years to come. Think of all the good your donation can do. I hope you will join me in meeting this challenge to ensure that those who we will rely on to contribute to the next century of discovery are poised to join our community.