Established in 1962, the Fellows program recognizes AGU members who have made exceptional contributions to Earth and space sciences as valued by their peers and vetted by a committee of Fellows. Primary criteria for evaluation in scientific eminence are:
- major breakthrough,
- major discovery,
- paradigm shift, and
- sustained impact.
This designation is conferred upon not more than 0.1% of all AGU members in any given year. Section Fellows committees provide rankings and recommendations of eligible nominations to the Union Fellows Selection Committee, who make the final decision.