Giuliano Francesco Panza

Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei and Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta dei XL, Rome, Italy

2018 International Award Winner

Giuliano Francesco Panza received the International Award at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held 12 December 2018 in Washington, D. C. The award honors an individual “for making an outstanding contribution to furthering the Earth and space sciences and using science for the benefit of society in developing nations.”


I was able to follow the international scientific and teaching activity of G. F. Panza for more than 30 years.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Prof. Panza, together with strong support from Prof. Keilis-Borok (of Russia), created, in the framework of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy, two new biennial workshops on seismology for young geophysicists from third world countries. One of the workshops was dedicated to the genesis and prediction of earthquakes, as well as to related tectonic problems; the other was dedicated to the generation, propagation, and interpretation of three-dimensional seismic waves.

These regular workshops attracted young seismologists from countries in Asia, Africa, South America, and elsewhere who were able to listen to lectures from internationally distinguished scientists and have personal contact with them, as well to learn modern techniques for computer-based analysis of observations. These workshops, under the continuous control and leadership of Prof. Panza, continued for 2 decades, up to 2010, and had a significant effect on the development of seismology in third world countries. Many of the participants continued to be in close contact with Prof. Panza and relied on his advice for their Ph.D. theses in seismology and obtained leading positions in geophysical institutions in their countries. Prof. Panza’s tireless support in raising money to fund these workshops, even in economically difficult times, as well as persuading leading scientists to participate, was impressive. The quality of these workshops became so high that both the U.S. National Science Foundation and the European Union each funded 12 graduate students to participate twice in the early 2000s. Several participants of the workshops became professors in the United States and other developed countries.

I therefore consider Prof. Panza ideally suited to receive AGU’s International Award.

—Anatoli L. Levshin, University of Colorado Boulder


Heartfelt thanks, Tolya, for your generous citation for the 2018 AGU International Award, notification of which was a total surprise! Knowing that such famous scientists as Shamita Das, Yuntai Chen, Anatoli Levshin, and Francis Wu nominated me makes this award very special. In gratitude, I thank my mentors as well: Markus Båth, Michele Caputo, Vladimir Keilis-Borok, Leon Knopoff, Anatoly Levshin, Stephan Mueller, Fred Schwab, and Nobel laureate Abdus Salam, who signified ICTP’s golden age.

On a 12 December, I married Rita, who has always accepted my frequent and sometimes prolonged absences, making possible my focus on international training and scientific cooperation; on a 4 December, I earned a doctorate in physics from Bologna University; and on a 6–9 December I gave my first overseas presentation at an AGU Fall Meeting.

One could draw the conclusion that December is a recurring month, albo lapillo dingus, and even more so, 12 December, dies albo signando lapillo, since December marks very important events for me. These conclusions, based on scarce data, are invalid! The problem of invalid conclusions is not alien in science. I have invested career-long scientific training efforts to show how chimeric (fanciful) the concept of earthquake “return period” can be, as universally applied in earthquake engineering. Certainly, it does not apply to the following recognition chronology: April, EGU Gutenberg Medal, and July and March, nomination in Accademia dei Lincei and the Russian Academy, respectively.

Our 1980 Europe model of the lithosphere–asthenosphere system (in the Alpine domain; subduction is not limited to the oceanic lithosphere but also affects the continental lithosphere) contributed to furthering the Earth sciences, leading to the 2012 Polarized Plate Tectonics model, wherein tidal forces contribute significantly to plate motion.

The award also recognizes the “advent of the paradigm” I introduced in Advanced Earthquake Hazard Assessment, even while encountering opinionated and stubborn resistance. Hopefully, it will have some influence on national seismic codes.

The by now well-known neo-deterministic seismic hazard assessment (NDSHA), mostly developed since the 1980s by the ICTP-SAND group and published in 2000, exemplifies the use of science for societal benefit. NDSHA, validated by the main earthquakes occurring in Italy after 1997, is now widely applied in Europe and developing nations.

When combined with intermediate-term and middle-range earthquake prediction algorithms, NDSHA allows for improved time-dependent hazard assessment.

Many thanks to the International Award Committee for this tangible recognition, not a chimera, of the work I have done during my long international academic career, always with commitment to improved public safety against earthquakes!

—Giuliano Francesco Panza, Accademia dei Lincei and Accademia dei XL, Rome, Italy