Haq Receives 2004 Ocean Sciences Award

Bilal Haq of the U.S. National Science Foundation received the Ocean Sciences Award at the awards program on 28 January in Portland, Oregon, for “extraordinary contributions and service” to ocean sciences.


haq_balil“Bilal Haq’s extraordinary contributions to ocean sciences will certainly have a long-lasting impact in the continuing development of our knowledge in marine geosciences. It is our pleasure to offer this brief citation of Bil’s very long list of accomplishments for a well-deserved award in ocean sciences by the American Geophysical Union.

“For nearly sixteen years, Bil Haq has selflessly served the ocean science community in his capacity as the director for marine geosciences programs at the National Science Foundation showing distinctive leadership in initiating and promoting significant new initiatives important to the continued vitality of marine geosciences.

“Bil received his doctorate degree from the University of Stockholm in Sweden and went on to pursue an extremely productive research career at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, before joining Exxon Research Labs in Houston for an equally productive career in the industry. During that time, he worked and published extensively on a variety of issues related to soft-rock geology; Bil was a true pioneer in the fields of paleobiogeography, paleoceanography, sequence stratigraphy, and eustasy. Some of his publications are among the most highly cited papers in Earth sciences. In 1988, he joined NSF and has had a distinctive career as the director for marine geology and geophysics programs. His impact on sedimentary geology has been widely recognized; in 1998, he was awarded the Francis Shepard Medal by the Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM); and in 1999, he was elected fellow by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Bil also received the NSF’s Antarctic Service Medal in the same year. Bil Haq is most remarkable and somewhat unique in continuing to publish research papers despite his busy duties as the director of one of the major programs at NSF.

“During his tenure at NSF, Bil has been a most proactive program director, not just responding to the community’s wishes, but proactively soliciting their views and, when needed, nudging them in the right direction. Several examples of initiatives he has begun or vigorously advanced are Marine aspects of Earth System History (or MESH) which is a Global Change initiative, and the MARGINS Program. Over the years, he has also prodded the sedimentary geology community to become more quantitative and to test their concepts through modeling. Bil has also actively encouraged gas-hydrate research by increasing the awareness of its importance both inside and outside NSF since 1990 through publications, talks, and an appearance before a Congressional Committee to support such research. His proactive stance towards marine geoscience research is further exemplified by the ‘Future of Marine Geosciences’ workshop that he organized with his MG&G colleagues in 1996 in order to actively involve the community in the planning for the future of their science. The results of the workshop (also called the FUMAGES Report) will guide future directions in marine geosciences for years to come.

“Bil has also been very effective in promoting marine geosciences internationally, by helping several burgeoning oceanographic institutions in developing countries with initial planning and identifying future directions, and by participating in UNESCO’s Inter-governmental Oceanographic Commission and IUGS committees and panels. His assignment with the World Bank during 1996 was also focused on helping ocean science research and development and integrated coastal zone management in developing countries.

“Bilal Haq richly deserves the Ocean Sciences Award for his long-standing and dedicated leadership and services in marine geosciences, and his extraordinary contributions to ocean sciences in the fields of paleoceanography, marine stratigraphy, eustatic sea-level changes, and sedimentary geology.”

Florentin Maurrasse, Florida International University, Miami
James P. Kennett, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of California, Santa Barbara


“Thank you, Florentin and Jim for your kind words and to AGU’s Ocean Sciences Section for this honor. It is especially nice to be recognized for simply doing your job, particularly when you are fortunate enough to be happily immersed in an environment where countless bright ideas are continuously proposed all around you. How could anyone ask for a better job? You don’t have to write proposals, struggle constantly to raise your salary, fight with the dean to keep your space or with the chairman to keep your tech, and yet you are in the midst of some of the most exciting science in your field. Working at NSF for me has been a bit like being a referee or even a ball thrower at Wimbledon.

“I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge all the wonderful help I have received in performance of my duties from colleagues in the Division of Ocean Sciences as well as other divisions at NSF, especially my fellow program officer and friend Dave Epp and too many talented rotating scientists from the community to mention by name. You might say that my management style at NSF has, by choice, been what one might call of the ‘matrix’ type (as opposed to a ‘pyramidal’ kind). This approach seems to have attracted truly accomplished scientists from the community to come work with us, who have visibly enhanced the MG&G Program and our rapport with the community that we serve. I hope we can keep attracting talented new blood to our visiting scientists’ program that is so vital for NSF to remain current. Matrix management allows you to share the burden as well as decision-making authority within the group and it encourages greater horizontal communication. One fine by-product of such lateral shared responsibility is that it affords you an occasional pause in which to pursue your own research and, thanks to NSF, I have been lucky to be able to follow some of my own research ideas over the years. Alas, I just don’t seem to be able to divest myself of the research bug!

“In parting, I hope you will indulge me by allowing me to mention a concern of mine. In recent years, I have been a bit worried about our complacency as research scientists. We may not be paying enough attention to the immediate relevance of our work to society, remaining quite content if only a handful of our colleagues understand or care about what we accomplish. I believe that we have to change this mind-set if we want to claim greater impact in solving pressing societal problems of resource exploitation and conservation, environmental degradation and remediation, and the overall quality of human existence, problems that loom big in this century. As stewards of the oceanic milieu, we will be called upon to provide lasting solutions and must prepare ourselves to face these issues.

Bilal U. Haq, U.S. National Science Foundation, Arlington, Va.