Daniel F. Weill

2002 Edward A. Flinn III Award Winner

Daniel F. Weill was awarded the Flinn III Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, which was held on 8 December 2002, in San Francisco, California. The award is given to an individual who personifies the Union’s motto of unselfish cooperation in research through their facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities.


“Daniel F. Weill is eminently qualified for the Edward Flinn Award as an individual who personifies the Union’s motto of ‘unselfish cooperation in research’ on the basis of his facilitating, coordinating, and implementing activities in both the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

“Dan Weill has had two careers. For 20 years following his Ph.D. at Berkeley, he had a distinguished research and academic career at the University of California at San Diego and the University of Oregon. His research in geochemistry, petrology, and mineralogy spawned a large number of outstanding graduate students and postdoctoral associates; e.g., Yan Bottinga, Michael Drake, Richard Grieve, Rudi Hon, Stewart McCallum, William Leeman, Harve Waff, and John Longhi.

“In 1983, Dan took a leave of absence from Oregon to serve in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the Department of Energy. While there, he worked with university and DOE lab groups and made comprehensive contributions while honing his skills as a program director.

“In his years at NSF, Dan has been a major factor in improving the availability of advanced instrumentation to the Earth science community. These include the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS); the Global Positioning Satellite consortium of UNAVCO; the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry facilities at the University of Arizona and Purdue University; ion-probe installations at UCLA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington; synchrotron facilities at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Advanced Photon Source of the Argonne National Laboratory; the Absolute Gravity facility at the NOAA labs in Boulder; and the Science and Technology Center for High Pressure Re-search (CHiPR) and Southern California Earth- quake Center (SCEC).

“Although much of the credit for these instrumentation facilities must go to the principal investigators, Dan has been very instrumental in helping the PIs to seek and obtain shared funding from other parts of the NSF, other federal agencies, and other private groups such as the Keck Foundation. His astute and careful management has provided the base of confidence that has encouraged these other funding groups to cooperate with him. The primary beneficiaries of these efforts have been the PIs and the Earth science community in general, which have thus gained access to these world-class facilities.

“I illustrate Dan’s incredible achievements by using selected quotations from the supporting letters:
‘…assuring that…DOE has a high-quality earth science component…
‘…extraordinary ability not only to see far into the future but to really care…
‘…most PI-oriented program director I have ever known…
‘…most important is his leadership in improving the infrastructure for research in geophysics.
‘…helped develop the scientific identity of modern geochemistry and geophysics.
‘…the major author of the long-range plan for Earth Sciences at NSF in 1988…
‘…establishment and encouragement of IRIS, UNAVCO,…the exploitation of synchrotron X-ray sources….All of these community efforts have benefited extensively from Weill’s guidance and insight.
‘…leadership and advice in securing the funding of large-scale programs spanning all the way across the Earth Sciences…
‘…used his energy and diplomatic skills to leverage funding for such projects from public and private sources (in particular, the Keck Foundation).
‘…done a conscientious job of balancing the needs of ‘big science’ with those of individual investigators.

“In 1985, Weill joined the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR) of the National Science Foundation as the first program director of the Instrumentation and Facilities Program, at a time when there were considerable problems in EAR in balancing the funding needs for basic research and new instrumentation. He proved to be a quick learner and developed rapidly into the ideal program director: one who seeks to understand the needs of the community, keeps his eyes out for potential initiatives, and then encourages the scientists to formulate proposals to address their needs and aspirations.

“For his excellence in research and education, and in particular for his remarkable and distinctive service to the Earth science community as a program administrator at DOE and NSF, it is a pleasure and an honor to present Dan Weill for the 2002 Flinn Award of the American Geophysical Union.”

—ROBERT C. LIEBERMANN, State University of New York, Stony Brook


“Thanks very much, Bob, for those kind words. When I first learned that I would receive AGU’s Flinn Award, two questions immediately came to mind. ‘Will I have to wear a tux?’ was quickly answered in the affirmative by AGU’s ceremonies police. Formal wear may not be me, but family and friends know that I can benefit from the occasional push to do the correct thing. The second question–‘What did I do to deserve this?’–reminded me of the last time I got a citation. In that instance, a parking ticket, a citationist in uniform gave me a terse reply. Tonight’s citationist is wearing a different uniform, and the Flinn Award deserves a more thoughtful response.

“The Flinn Award recognizes ‘unselfish cooperation in research,’ but I’m not sure those words fit me much better than this tuxedo. Unselfish is an adjective usually associated with self-sacrifice, but the first point I’d like to make tonight is that whatever I may have done to deserve this award, it was thoroughly enjoyable and certainly required no sacrifice on my part.

“Sociological myth has it that we’re all entitled to fifteen minutes of fame. The next few minutes may well turn out to be my next-to-last moment in the spotlight (the one before the obituary column, that is), so let me quickly say how honored I am by this recognition, and, to put things in proper perspective, let me briefly tell you about the people who deserve to share it with me.

“The start-up, in 1985, of a program to support acquisition, development, and operation of major research instrumentation in Earth sciences did not require a flash of inspiration from me. Given the progress of technology during preceding years and the obvious need for better ways to observe the Earth and analyze its materials, something along the lines of the Instrumentation & Facilities, or IF, program had been gestating at NSF before I arrived. I was simply fortunate to be there at its birth and be given the opportunity to manage the IF baby to maturity. So it’s only fair that I should now cite the friends and colleagues at the NSF, USGS, NASA, DOE, the Keck Foundation, and the many research and teaching departments with whom I had fruitful collaborations on behalf of the IF program. My dictionary defines a bureaucrat as ‘one who is rigidly devoted to the details of administrative procedure.’ We all have encountered the type specimen in (or out of) government, but the colleagues I wish to thank here are the ones who, contrary to the stereotype, were always adept at minimizing the burden of bureaucratic procedures while serving the science community. I’m truly grateful to them for having created a working environment in which I had a good time while the IF program was doing some good.

“Any career in science that spans teaching, research, and management has to be firmly rooted in its educational base. Although it’s nice to think that learning is a continuous process, when I think back about my own experience, I recognize certain peak periods of intellectual activity, first as a doctoral candidate and postdoc at UC-Berkeley and later as professor at Scripps and the University of Oregon; and I want to extend a special thank-you here to those who shared those stimulating times with me during my own education and while I was trying my best to educate others.

“I also want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the science community itself. I realize that the word ‘community’ casts a wide net, but the IF program did conscientiously try to cater to the needs of every subdiscipline of the Earth sciences, and it responded to proposals ranging from requests for modest equipment for individual laboratories to those making a case for extensive facilities on behalf of large consortia. Without the many selfless members of the large international community who reviewed its proposals and served on its review panels and special committees, the IF program could not have done what it did, and I will always be in their debt for their good work and the pleasure of their company while we served together.

“While speaking of community, I can’t resist adding that, in addition to the pursuit of scientific goals (a worthy endeavor needing no further praise from me), the science community can also be proud of its role in society. Even if, from time to time, misguided critics chide us for being too ‘curiosity-driven,’ isn’t that drive more worthy, to say nothing of ultimately more useful to society, than the unseemly greed that drives much of society around us? In fact, is it much of an exaggeration to claim that the science community can serve as a model for a troubled business community? After all, we manage to be productive for a global society, competitive and cooperative within our own sphere, all the while maintaining high ethical standards. I am proud to have contributed in some measure to such a community, and, stealing a line from a popular musical, I sometimes wonder, ‘Why can’t a businessman be more like a scientist?’

“The term ‘closure’ comes up routinely in public discourse these days, all too often associated with sad events. Although this is a happy occasion, AGU has nevertheless made it clear that I should reach closure about now. So, in closing, let me first apologize to the many friends and colleagues whom it would have been a pleasure for me to mention by name tonight had time permitted. Instead, I will end my remarks by mentioning the name of the one person, here tonight, who best symbolizes the love and gratitude with which I accept this award on behalf of many who helped me along the way. Margaret, my wife and companion of 45 years, has shared the various phases of my career with me and with many of you. I’ve been extremely fortunate that she and the rest of my family have always been there to help me keep a proper balance between the workplace and home, providing me with encouragement when things looked overwhelming at work, but perfectly willing to shut me up whenever I took myself too seriously or droned on too long. I sense that she is thinking of doing that right now, so thank you all and keep up the good work!”

—DANIEL F. WEILL, Eugene, Ore.