Science and Society Section Honorees

Science and Society Team Award
Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE)
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego


URGE, or Unlearning Racism in Geoscience, is a program to help geoscientists develop antiracist policies that improve accessibility, justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The URGE team all embrace the concept of “science and society,” and most members are early-career scholars. The team currently includes Vashan Wright, Gabriel Duran, Carlene Burton, Stephanie Madsen, and Kasey Aderhold; in 2020–2021, Phoebe Cohen and Onjalé Scott Price were also URGE leaders. Together these scholars created, designed, funded, and launched the URGE curriculum, providing the geoscience community with a framework for learning about and implementing inclusive and antiracist policies at their institutions. The curriculum and a host of invaluable resources can be found on the URGE website ( The team also facilitated discussions with geoscientists of color to build community and create affinity spaces.

The URGE program perfectly captures the criteria of this award; the team’s efforts are impactful, inclusive, equitable, actionable, and sustainable. The URGE vision has resonated with the global geoscience community, and the program’s impact has already been tremendous. URGE brought together teachers, students, researchers, professional geoscientists, and administrators to tackle issues of inequity in the Earth and space sciences. At the time of nomination, URGE had 310 “pods” representing 3,920 participants from institutions across the United States and internationally. Webinar attendance was consistently more than 500 people.

URGE is not a “journal club” but instead focuses on a curriculum that can lead to actionable change. Each pod reads, watches, learns, and discusses topics and then develops deliverables ranging from compiling information about the equity (or lack thereof), policies, and resources at a pod’s home institution to drafting new codes of conduct or hiring practices at the institution. In this way, URGE provides the foundations for true structural reform to address inequities in the geosciences, specifically racism. I would encourage everyone to read the medium articles about URGE as well as the upcoming manuscript about the “lessons learned” from URGE (EarthArXiv:

The program developed by the URGE team has had an immense impact on educating geoscientists about BeAJEDI (Belonging, Accessibility, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion). The curriculum is a massive leap forward in combating racism in the geosciences, and the work continues as URGE transitions to the refinement phase in fall 2022. The URGE leaders’ efforts have already led to the education of thousands of geoscientists around the world! Congratulations to the URGE team for their richly deserved AGU Science and Society Section Team Award!

—Rowan C. Martindale, University of Texas at Austin


Thank you for recognizing Unlearning Racism in Geoscience (URGE) for the Science and Society Team Award from AGU! This award recognizes not just the tireless work of the URGE team but also the approximately 4,600 scientists who engage with and have made the program their own.

I often say I won't know whether URGE is successful until most participating workplaces (pods) have implemented antiracist policies and resources that help achieve a more just discipline while reducing harm to geoscientists of color. Undoubtedly, I’ve set a very high bar for success.

With this recognition, URGE is being encouraged to keep going, to keep striving, to keep moving toward that very high bar. With this recognition, I believe that AGU and the geoscience community recognize that we, the geoscience community, have not yet met this very high bar. Still, we are closer—now more knowledgeable, more diverse, and more inclusive because of URGE.

So I am encouraged. With this award, I am encouraged that there is and always will be a place for placing the well-being of our fellow humans, notably the often excluded or historically marginalized, as central to the scientific exercise. I am encouraged that our vision to be part of a community that values, encourages, promotes, and achieves full participation of Black, brown, and Indigenous people can one day be a reality.

I am encouraged that more people of color, like myself, will find their calling, vocation, and fulfillment in studying the Earth and planetary sciences. This, I believe, is one of the best reasons for improving geoscience diversity. Studying geoscience is great. Everyone should get to participate in that. So let’s keep working toward this.

Again, URGE and I thank you.

—Vashan Wright, on behalf of the URGE Team

Field Photos

URGE field photo

Kasey Aderhold, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology
Carlene Burton, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
Phoebe Cohen, Williams College
Gabriel Duran, University of Quebec in Montreal
Stephanie Madsen, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Onjalé Scott Price, Woods Hole Partnership Education Program and Mizar Imaging
Vashan Wright, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution