Suggestions for a Strong AGU Fellow Nomination
It is important to note that this is informal, unsanctioned guidance from a member of the AGU Union Fellows Committee. In the opinion of the leadership of the Atmospheric Sciences (AS) Section, the guidance is on target and is very helpful. We are, therefore, making it available to AS members of AGU.
Thank you for nominating worthy colleagues!
- The vast majority of nominees that make it to the Union Committee deserve to be elected, but the number of Fellowships is limited. As a consequence, success depends a lot on the quality of the letters, independent of the individual.
- Members of the Union Committee represent the entire range of AGU disciplines, and they go through every nomination dossier. Thus, a strong letter communicates the case using language that can be understood by the broad range of AGU scientists – this is very important. Letters filled with jargon do not help the candidates.
- Because the Committee is so broad, the importance of an achievement as presented in a letter often is not obvious to members from other disciplines. Thus, it is critical to explain the importance of the nominee’s work (“this is important because …”).
- A strong letter clearly explains the candidate’s special scientific accomplishments that warrant election as a Fellow. Superlatives by themselves will not help the case. The letters should include real examples of why the candidate deserves the honor.
- A strong letter explicitly refers to the AGU criteria and how the accomplishments relate to the criteria: “Primary criteria for evaluation in scientific eminence are: (1) breakthrough or discovery; (2) innovation in disciplinary science, cross-disciplinary science, instrument development, or methods development; and/or (3) sustained scientific impact.”
- Community service, non-scientific leadership, mentorship, and being a great educator, although commendable, are not Fellows criteria. At the Union Committee meetings these attributes did not help the nominees (they may help on the section committees) and too much emphasis hurt some nominations. I suggest not using a lot of space in any letter on this.
- If the nominee has honors, from AGU or other societies, mentioning them can help.
- Even though not prohibited, I recommend against nominators from the same institution as the nominee, letters from Ph.D. advisors, and letters from recent coauthors-collaborators. Given that the nomination is limited to 3 support letters, I advise not more than 1 support letter from the candidate’s institution, and better if there are none.
- Weak support letters are unhelpful to the nominee. If the nominator can ensure that all three support letters are strong, even if it means excluding a weak letter received from a prominent supporter, it will benefit the dossier.