Faisal Hossain

Associate Professor

2012 Charles S. Falkenberg Award Winner

Tennessee Technological University

Faisal Hossain received the 2012 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 5 December 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors a “scientist under 45 years of age who has contributed to the quality of life, economic opportunities, and stewardship of the planet through the use of Earth science information and to the public awareness of the importance of understanding our planet.”


Faisal Hossain is an Earth scientist recognized for his research efforts to promote a remote sensing–based flood warning system for vulnerable parts of developing nations where data are scarce and institutional capacity limited. He has argued for a space-based data information system that leverages current and upcoming Earth science satellite missions and complements them on a common platform for water management. He has demonstrated that if prediction uncertainty could be characterized accurately, then the benefits of information derived from Earth observations could outweigh the costs for the 21st century, and these satellite missions could be path finders to more operational missions.

Along this line, Faisal has worked diligently to showcase the potential for socioeconomic benefits through applied research on current and upcoming missions. Although the topic of transboundary waters is already well researched, Faisal was the first to bring it to the forefront of AGU (through EOS) and demonstrate to the scientific community the potential benefits of spaceborne Earth science data. He has argued that satellite data on precipitation, soil moisture, surface water, and land use could overcome the widespread hydropolitical hurdles between riparian nations that do not have mechanisms to share basin-wide data otherwise on an operational timescale. In his 2006 EOS article (Improving flood forecasting in international river basins), Faisal showed through research on institutional capacity and geohydrologic location of various nations that there are many (at least 33 listed in his article) flood prone nations that can benefit from Earth observation data (precipitation in particular). This work was perhaps a key point in drawing the attention of real-world water forecasting agencies in developing nations to the value of spaceborne Earth science data in operational settings.

Since 2007, Faisal has been instrumental in establishing and leveraging Memoranda of Understanding for technical collaboration with stakeholder environmental management and operational agencies in developing nations. Through these mechanisms, he has promoted the use and value of spaceborne Earth science data in a two-way framework. His “forward” way has been to work directly with the operational agencies, train their staff, and demonstrate through hands-on exercises the value of Earth science data for predicting fluxes at regions that are either transboundary or lacking in situ monitoring. This forward approach is motivated by the need for capacity building to adapt to emerging technology. The “reverse” way uses the end results and experience from the “forward” way and feeds them back to the satellite mission community in order to demonstrate the potential economic benefits and suggest ways for tweaking mission planning to be societally more effective. This is an iterative education procedure that has made progress in giving research results and experiences the needed longevity to transform to societal applications for an otherwise very skeptical community of beneficiaries.

–Emmanouil Anagnostou, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut; Marco Borga, Department of Land and Agroforest Environments, University of Padova, AGRIPOLIS, Legnaro, Italy; S. M. MahbuburRahman, WRP, Institute of Water Modelling, Dhaka, Bangladesh; and C. K. Shum, School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University,

Columbus, Ohio


I am utterly thrilled and humbled by this award. This is by far the highest accolade I have or will have ever received in my lifetime for something that has become a mission for me. I thank the AGU, Earth Science Information Partnership (EISP), and the Falkenberg Award review committee for giving me a never-ending source of inspiration. Thanks also go to colleagues who nominated me, namely, Manos Anagnostou, C. K. Shum, Marco Borga, and Mahbub Rahman.


Let me start by quoting from the AGU: “Charles S. Falkenberg, whose research focused on enabling practical applications of Earth science through data visualization and information technology.” Such monumental achievement of Charles Falkenberg, on which this award category is designed, has been a source of constant inspiration to many of us. For me, it all began many years ago when I learned of the term “Valley of Death” that a funding agency once used to describe the often desolate ‘no-man’s land’ between research findings and their societal applications. Until then, it had never dawned on me that giving longevity to Earth science data and findings for practical applications could ever be even an issue. If it’s obvious to the scientific community that the research has societal importance and therefore merits publication, then why should not the beneficiaries (stakeholders) and the general public not view it the same way and start applying the products immediately?


Like many before me, I realized that it is only when you cross the Valley of Death, you realize the significance of the term, the challenges and get overwhelmed with a humbling feeling. This humbling feeling is one that requires us to step out of our comfort zone, to listen more than to talk, and to understand the mindset of our target group of beneficiaries. I realized that, in order to grasp what the public or the beneficiaries really want from Earth science data to impact their lives or their agenda, a trial-and-error education process is required. The skepticism that many in the real-world harbor towards many types of emerging Earth science data and research findings needs to be addressed through education that solicits candid feedback from the beneficiaries and channels them back via our scientific community. With perseverance, the education challenges can be overcome to make our scientific community more inclusive of our stakeholders and beneficiaries through dialogue. Research devoid of this iterative education process often made me feel that I was only preaching to my choir.


This award is a celebration of the contribution of all my friends and colleagues I have known and who have encouraged and helped me to cross the Valley of Death. So I dedicate this award to each one of them. Since it is impossible to list all of them by name here, I would like to mention just a few. They are, Doug Alsdorf, Dennis Lettenmaier, Ming-Ying Wei, Larry Smith, Ali Akanda, Ross Bagtzoglou, Christa Peters-Lidard, Azad Hossain, Sylvain Biancamaria, Hyongki Lee, David Huddleston, Dev Niyogi, Marshall Sheperd, Roger Pielke Sr and Sayma Rahman.


Once again, I thank AGU, ESIP, and my colleagues who nominated me for this award. Thank you all!

–Faisal Hossain, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee