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Union Awards, Medals, and Prizes: Frequently Asked Questions

Nomination process

For questions about nominator and nominee eligibility, see the AGU Honors Conflict of Interest policy and the individual page for the specific honor. AGU’s policy on the relationship to a nominee is applicable to committee members, nominators, and supporters.

Can I nominate myself?
AGU accepts self-nominators only for the Sullivan and Perlman journalism awards. AGU only accepts nominations and supporting letters from colleagues of individuals who show that they have made outstanding contributions to the Earth and space sciences.

Does a nominator have to have received an honor from AGU to be eligible nominate a colleague?
You do not have to be a Union awardee, medalist, or prize recipient, or an AGU Fellow, to nominate a colleague.

I am an AGU elected officer or appointed committee member. Can I submit a nomination letter or supporting letter during my term?
Unless there are additional relationship conflicts that will cause disqualification (see the AGU Honors Conflict of Interest policy), only the following elected officers and appointed committee members may not submit a nomination letter or supporting letter during their term of office:

  • AGU President
  • AGU President-elect
  • Council Leadership Team
  • Honors and Recognition Committee
  • Committee members cannot submit nominations or write supporting letters for their respective Union Award, Medal or Prize, but they may submit nominations for other Union Award, Medal or Prizes.

For more details, please review the AGU Honors Conflict of Interest policy.

When will AGU begin to accept nominations for Union medals, awards, and prizes? What is the submission deadline?

The 2022 nomination cycle is currently open and will close on 15 April at 11:59 PM ET. Nominations must be submitted online through the nomination submission site

Please note that the nomination package must be complete at the time of submission. The online submission system allows nominators to make frequent updates during the submission process. Please only hit the “submit” button once your nomination is complete. Once the nomination is submitted, no additional information can be submitted online thereafter, and the package cannot be revised. Only complete submissions are forwarded to the selection committee for review.

Please do not submit your nomination unless you are certain that all materials are complete and accurate. If a nomination requires revising, then contact the program specialist. Revised documents must be submitted to AGU headquarters by the deadline.

I want to strengthen and resubmit my nomination package from the previous year. How do I obtain feedback regarding an unsuccessful nomination package? Upon request, nominators will be provided with appropriate feedback from the respective award selection committee. If your nominee was not selected, please submit a request for feedback.

How is a final decision reached by the Union awards, medals and prizes selection committees? On the basis of their scientific backgrounds and knowledge, committee members hold confidential deliberations until an honoree is chosen. No one is selected without receiving a majority of the committee’s votes. Once an awardee, medalist or prize recipient is selected, the committee submits their recommendations to the AGU Council Leadership Team for final approval.

The selection committee recommendations to the Council Leadership Team must state the following: (1) number of candidates considered, (2) process used for reaching the decision, and (3) degree of unanimity on the decision.

In the event a committee is deadlocked, the chair will report such to the AGU Council Leadership Team. No medal, award, or prize will be given that year. Unless there are three viable nominations, the committee is not required to make a recommendation for that year.

What is the role of the Council Leadership Team with regards to the Union awards, medals and prizes?
The role of the Council Leadership Team is to either accept or reject the recommendation of the selection committees on the basis of their evaluation of the process and knowledge of the candidates. The Council Leadership Team may not substitute for the committees’ choice; however, they can ask for further clarification or additional deliberation if they deem necessary.

What does it mean to be a conferred Fellow?
Any AGU medalist or Ambassador awardee who was not previously an elected Fellow and has been an AGU member for three consecutive years at the time of their award, with exceptions allowed in cases of financial hardship, is automatically accorded the honor as well.

Is there a historical list of selected AGU Union awardees, medalists and prize recipient available? Where can I find the new group of Union awardees, medalists and prize recipient listed?

You can find lists of past winners associated with each award, medal, or prize page. 


My nominee has written for countless publications. Can the selected bibliography exceed the maximum two-page limit?
AGU requests that nominators submit a “selected bibliography” that encompasses the candidate’s overall research and scientific contributions. Rather than selecting the most recent publications, nominators are encouraged to choose those that best support the argument for the AGU Union Award, Medal or Prize.

Each selected bibliography should begin by briefly stating the candidate’s total number and types of publications and specifying the number published in AGU publications. For example:

Jane Doe is the author of 92 publications, 86 in peer-reviewed scientific journals, 14 of which have been published in AGU journals and books. The following selected list best supports Jane’s nomination for the Bowie medal.

The selected bibliography should not exceed two pages in length. All incomplete or incorrect documents will be returned to the nominator for revising. Please note that the Education, International, Kaula and Spilhaus awards do not require a selected bibliography as part of the nomination process.

Nomination Package

What font size is acceptable for nomination materials?
AGU prefers that use either (1) Calibri 11 pt. OR (2) Times New Roman 12 pt. font size for all nomination documents (i.e., selected bibliography, curriculum vitae, nominating and supporting letters). If the font size used is too small, you will be asked to revise the document.

Is there a page limit on submitted documentation?
Yes, there is a two-page limit for each required document (minimum of 11 pt. font) submitted.

What will happen if any of my documents exceed the two-page limit?
If you exceed two pages for any item (i.e., nomination letter, curriculum vitae, selected bibliography, or supporting letter), the nomination package is considered incorrect. An email notification will be sent directly to the nominator requesting that the revised document(s) be electronically submitted via the submission site. Only complete packages will move forward to the committees for review. Revised documents must be received at AGU headquarters by the deadline.

Should a nomination letter or supporting letter contain the author’s signature?
Yes, both nomination letters and supporting letters should contain the author’s signature, full name, title, e-mail or telephone number, and institution affiliation. In addition, nominators and supporters are encouraged to submit letters using their institution’s letterhead. Electronic or official signatures and letterhead are acceptable. Please mail a signed copy of any letter that is submitted electronically without a signature to AGU headquarters.

Will AGU contact me if my nomination package is incomplete or requires revising?
Yes, the Honors Program will contact any nominator regarding incomplete or incorrect packages.

I plan to submit a nomination package using AGU’s online submission system. Which file formats can I use?
The AGU online submission system accepts .doc, .pdf, and .jpeg formatted files. If you experience difficulty, please contact us by email.

Curriculum Vitae

What information should the nominee’s curriculum vitae (CV) contain, and what is the page limit?
The curriculum vitae should list the candidate’s (1) name, (2) mailing and e-mail address, (3) history of employment, (4) degrees, (5) research experience, (6) honors, (7) memberships, and (8) service to the community through committee work, advisory boards, etc.

The CV should not exceed two pages in length. All incomplete or incorrect CVs will be returned to the nominator for revising.

Nomination and supporting letters

What information should the nomination letter contain?
Nomination letters should be concise, clear, and no more than two pages in length, preferably on letterhead. The nomination should include a brief history of the candidate’s work and, should indicate which selection committee should review the package. It must include a short citation as the final sentence, which encapsulates the essence of the individual’s contributions.

What is a short citation? Can you share an example of a short citation?
A short citation is the final sentence in the nomination letter, which summarizes the essence of the individual’s contributions. Short citations should be no more than 150 characters – including punctuation and spacing. Nominators will be asked to revise any short citation that exceeds the character count, and if they do not comply, AGU staff will remove any text beyond the 150-character count (no copyediting will be provided).

Use the following format when writing a citation:

“Dr. Smith should be elected a [specify the Union award/medal/prize] for [state the essence of the scientific contributions].” An example of a citation provided for 2013 Horton medalist, Soroosh Sorooshian, by Janne Blichert-Toft is as follows:

For outstanding contributions to the modeling, measurement, and analysis of surface hydrology systems and precipitation estimation.

Does my nomination letter also count as one of the three required letters of support for my nominee?
No, a nomination letter is submitted along with the three required supporting letters. A nominator cannot submit a letter of support in the same nomination package. The nominator is required to secure three individuals who will support the nomination.

To determine if a potential supporter is eligible to participate in nomination process, please review the Honors Conflict of Interest Policy.

I still am unsure of what to include in a nomination letter or supporting letter. What should I consider when writing a nomination or supporting letter?
The nomination and supporting letters should explicitly address the selection criteria and explain the importance of the science/accomplishments relevant to the specific award, medal, or prize. For additional information, please visit Guidelines to a Successful Nomination.

Should supporters send their letters directly to AGU or to the nominator?
AGU strongly recommends and prefers that all documents are submitted to headquarters by the nominator, however supporters can submit their letters to AGU online or by mail. Supporters should allow adequate time to forward their letter directly to the nominator, who is responsible for submitting the complete nomination package.

I have received notification from the Honors and Recognition staff that a supporter is ineligible. What should I do?
If one of three supporters are deemed ineligible to participate in the nomination process, the nominator must find an alternate supporter to write a letter of support. If no alternate supporter is located, then the nomination is considered incomplete and will not be assigned to the respective selection committee for review.

To determine if a potential supporter is eligible, please review the AGU Conflict of Interest policy.

There are several reputable and esteemed scientists who have agreed to write supporting letters for my nominee. I simply cannot choose three supporters from this list of highly regarded individuals. Can there be an exception to the rule?

Although it may be difficult to choose, nominators cannot exceed three letters of support in a nomination package. If more than three supporting letters are submitted, then an e-mail will be sent to the nominator requesting the names of their three supporters. If no response is received, then the Honors Program staff will randomly select three of the supporters provided to move the nomination package forward.