The #AGU15 Fall Meeting is a time when I am reminded just how large and diverse our society is. There are a few thousand space scientists here in San Francisco right now from across the country and, indeed, from around the world. For instance, on Tuesday I met Sarah Amiri, the Science Lead for the United Arab Emirates Mars Mission. I love meeting new people from around the globe; I think it’s a huge perk of being in our field. What a fantastically interconnected research community we have!
Some researchers have a tough time getting here, though. AGU, however, does a lot to help bring its members together here at the Fall Meeting each December. AGU has established a number of travel funds for students, early career researchers, and those from developing countries. I am very pleased that AGU is able to help support many people to get here because our field tremendously benefits from a diverse base of researchers tackling the tough problems from a wide array of perspectives and approaches.
On a related note, at lunch on Tuesday I sat next to Sunanda Basu, who has made a significant positive impact on our field through her science papers on ionosphere-thermosphere physics, her dedicated service at NSF, and her generous contributions to establish several awards and travel grants. She told me a story about her mother, who established a school in a village in India as a way to give back to humanity some of the richness of her life experience, especially to those less fortunate than her. Sunanda, thank you for the example you serve to us; you have learned very well from your mother. We all should.
We, the space physics community, can help expand this travel grant program. Giving beyond your membership dues allows AGU to provide even more support to a larger and broader contingent from our field. By giving at the voluntary contribution website you can direct exactly how your gift to the society will be allocated. It could be given as unrestricted funds or designated to one or more specific funds.
In addition, this giving by individual AGU members will help space physics. AGU has recently initiated the Section and Focus Group Incentive Program to encourage member giving. For every milestone in percentage participation attained by a particular AGU section (like SPA or Planetary Sciences), AGU makes a bigger and bigger financial contribution back to that section (from AGU general funds). Section leadership can then do more for space physics, like the SPA Student Mixer that happened on Sunday evening. I have been told that the Space Physics and Aeronomy Section is below the initial “kickback-eligible” participation level of 5% giving $50 or more. Yeah, that’s right, very few of us give beyond our membership dues. We can do better.
A great time to give is, well, right now. December 17, 2015 (yes, tomorrow) is the inaugural AGU Giving Day. Like Giving Tuesday, it is a one-day effort to encourage people to give back. Student volunteers will be roaming the Moscone Center to remind you of this event. If you are an introvert, then you can preempt their conversation with the satisfying mindset that you already gave. Because I know that you all have high ethical standards, though, as witnessed to me in your manuscript prep and peer reviewing for JGR Space Physics, I trust that you will, in fact, actually give before replying, “I already gave” to them.