J. Michael Hall

2004 Waldo E. Smith Medal (INACTIVE) Winner

Ohio State University

J. Michael Hall received the Smith Medal at the 2004 Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony on 15 December, in San Francisco, California. The medal is given for extraordinary service to geophysics.


Mike Hall has been the preeminent civil servant involved in the creation of modern Earth systems science. Through more than 30 years of public service, he has built an unparalleled record of innovation and leadership in mobilizing scientific talent and government resources for global scale, internationally organized research programs in weather, climate, oceanography, and the environment.

Dr. Hall’s record of accomplishments reflects a continually expanding vision of how the very best science can be mobilized in the service of society. Early in his career, he played a central role in conceptualizing the notion that the ocean should be systematically “observed” through a network of buoys. This was merely the first of his many contributions to the emergence of today’s global Earth observing system. His stewardship of the Tropical Ocean Global Atmosphere (TOGA) program was instrumental in facilitating the effective collaboration between atmospheric and oceanographic sciences that ultimately demonstrated the predictability of El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO). TOGA stands today as the gold standard for effective international programs in the geosciences.

Building on his TOGA experience, Dr. Hall became the principal advocate of a truly interdisciplinary approach to the U.S. Global Change Research Program. When almost no one else was doing so, he took the lead in reaching out to bring biological and, especially, social scientists into the effort as the fully integrated partners they have become today.

Recognizing more than a decade ago that excellent Earth systems science was necessary but not sufficient for managing the challenges of global change, Dr. Hall began encouraging a series of experiments in how to bring the users and producers of such science closer together in partnerships. His development of a Climate and Social Interactions group within NOAA, his advocacy for a use-driven International Research Institute for Climate Prediction, and his support for research on the efficacy of different ways to integrate research, observation, assessment, and decision support have paved a way that others are only now beginning to follow.

In building his unparalleled record of programmatic accomplishments, Mike Hall has defined the model of a scientific program manager. He has shaped exciting research programs by listening carefully to the views, opinions, and concerns of a broad range of scientists and users, creatively synthesizing the best of what he hears, and then pushing us just a little beyond what we thought we could do.

He has demonstrated that personal integrity and a commitment to putting programmatic goals ahead of bureaucratic self-interest can build powerful interagency coalitions to support such programs. He has cultivated scientific excellence by seeking out the best researchers no matter where they are in the world, running fiercely competitive grants programs, but still betting occasionally on the unconventional and untried. He has had the courage to fail, launching risky experiments, but insisting on learning from them through the use of independent and transparent program evaluations from his toughest critics. Perhaps most important, he has fostered young talent, training and supporting the professional development of a generation of the best science program managers in today’s civil service.

For his vision, his innovations in program management, his nurturing of young talent, and his deeply held values that have so advanced science in the service of humanity, I join with my assembled colleagues in proudly presenting to J. Michael Hall the AGU Waldo E. Smith Medal

—WILLIAM C. CLARK, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.


The members of the AGU honor me deeply with this award. Above all else, your action is humbling, in large part because of the company one is placed in by the receipt of the Waldo E. Smith Medal. My feeling on finding myself in that company is beyond words. I can only thank all of you for your kindness.

Another compelling humility derives from the need “to own up to those who were the means of one’s achievements” (Pliny). The American novelist E. L. Doctorow at last summer’s “Einstein Celebration” in Aspen quoted an 1865 essay to link literary achievement with scientific advancement, suggesting that “two powers must concur, the power of the man and the power of the moment, and the man is not enough without the moment.” Much could be said about the “moment” in Earth sciences; I wish to emphasize one particular aspect in accepting this award. Countless hardworking and gifted individuals were involved in the aggregate achievements for which the AGU honors me.

The words of the award citation refer to “mobilizing scientific talent” and entraining social scientists as “fully integrated partners.” They suggest that “powerful interagency coalitions” were formed and that “the best researchers in the world” were involved. One sees intrinsically that an enormous circle of cooperating individuals was ultimately formed. Furthermore, the citation speaks of “listening and synthesizing,” of “evaluations by his toughest critics,” and of fostering “the best program managers.” Clearly, many of the most talented individuals in our field worked with me on a continuing basis to develop successful initiatives. The countless moments of intense interaction with these dedicated people made the difficult tasks of our science eminently enjoyable for me. I can say, beyond any doubt, those moments, including this one, are the high points of my professional life.

—J. MICHAEL HALL, Ohio State University, Hilliard