Nicholas G. Heavens

Planetary Sciences



Research Scientist, Space Science Institute, London, United Kingdom

AGU embraces the global community and welcomes diverse leaders from around the world, representing various identities, voices, and perspectives. List any identities, voices, and perspectives you would bring, including but not limited to nationality, regional representations, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and any other identity you feel comfortable sharing.

I probably tick all the boxes for the least minoritized/most privileged identity in the 21st century United States: white, male, cisgender, evangelical Christian born to college-educated parents in the United States. The only thing that makes me at all unusual is that I am an American and British dual citizen who lives in London. The less privileged perspective I would bring to AGU leadership is one I share with many planetary scientists of all ages and backgrounds: I have spent my entire career on funding-contingent contracts in an era of declining proposal success rates. Like many of you, I have contemplated changing careers, formulated ideas for side hustles, and worried about looming funding cliffs. AGU is an organization that can communicate widely who geoscientists are and what they need. I hope my perspective can make that communication more realistic.

Volunteer experience that relates to this position:

Over the years, I have convened and chaired 12 sessions at AGU Fall Meeting, volunteered as an Outstanding Student Presentation Award (OSPA) liaison and judge, and served as OSPA Coordinator for the Planetary Sciences section for three years. I frequently review for Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets and Geophysical Research Letters and won an outstanding reviewer award from Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets last year. I also served on the board of STEPPE (Sedimentary Geology, Time, Environment, Paleontology, Paleoclimate, and Energy), a short-lived international consortium on deep time research.


As one of the elected leaders of your section, how will you partner with your president and president-elect to communicate with and engage your members to help implement AGU’s strategic plan including its mission and vision?

As section Secretary, my primary role would be to facilitate communication among our community. And I am eager to find ways to give AGU members a taste of what is happening in planetary science on every continent, not just in North America and Europe. 

But I also would be expected to assist the other section officers in their initiatives. The AGU strategic plan is now strongly centered around the impact the geosciences has on society, a goal most strongly phrased as “we will leverage collaborations between the Earth and space science community and a diverse range of groups to move our science from ‘usable’ to ‘used.’”

In the Planetary Sciences section, one aspect of the relevance of our community and its science to society is major growth in both the space agencies and private entities involved in planetary exploration. On the face of it, this growth presents new opportunities to launch payloads, new parts of the world to inspire, and new colleagues to support professionally. But we may face challenges as well. We may need to justify the relevance of our expertise on the solar system to groups with much different interests and priorities than those of our prior collaborators. We even may need to sacrifice scientific opportunities to uphold legal and ethical standards. But in either case, it will be important to form relationships early and find ways to welcome new players, so that even our critical input is seen as friendly rather than hostile.

Section affiliations:

Global Environmental Change; Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology; Planetary Sciences