Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism – Features
Congratulations to last year's UMAP Honorees!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to commonly asked questions about the Medals, Awards, & Prizes program.
Nomination Process
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.
AGU accepts self-nominations for all Union medals, awards and prizes. Nominations should be for individuals who show that they have made outstanding contributions to the Earth and space sciences.
You do not have to be a Union awardee, medalist, or prize recipient, or an AGU Fellow, to nominate a colleague.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can find lists of past winners on each award, medal, or prize page under the "Past Recipients" tab.
Selection committees are charged with selecting the recipients of their designated awards and lectures. They also promote excellence and transparency, allowing broad input and recognition beyond disciplinary awards, and diversity and equity so that awards are sufficiently representative of underrepresented groups.
In partnership with the Honors and Recognition Committee and staff, the committees also work to ensure that the program is superior in all respects, recognizes all constituents, and fosters a global network of individuals in the Earth and space sciences who epitomize excellence and cooperation in research, education, and outreach.
Committee members abide by AGU’s Honors Conflict of Interest Policy, program policies, procedures and guidelines set by AGU.
Nomination and Supporting Letters
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Contact the honors team.

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