2016 Charles S. Falkenberg Award Winner
Kevin Murphy received the 2016 Charles S. Falkenberg Award at the AGU Fall Meeting Honors Ceremony, held on 14 December 2016 in San Francisco, Calif. The award honors an “early- to mid-career scientist 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.”
Kevin Murphy is receiving the Falkenberg Award because of his extraordinary accomplishments as the system architect for NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). In this role, Kevin Murphy has greatly expanded the utilization and exploitation of NASA’s vast Earth science data holdings. With ~15 petabytes of remote sensing data hosted at a dozen Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs), EOSDIS is one of the largest Earth science information systems in the world. Mr. Murphy heartily embraced the EOSDIS primary goal of making those data accessible, understandable, reliable, and usable by a wide range of science and applications users.
EOSDIS today serves a worldwide community of users. In 2015 alone, EOSDIS distributed over 1.4 billion files of scientific data. EOSDIS has had a significant impact on Earth science, as evidenced by the growth in the number of publications utilizing the data and their citations. The data products managed by EOSDIS are used for answering fundamental questions about the Earth system, which are of global interest. Answers to these questions will have a profound impact on policy and will have political and economic consequences.
EOSDIS must evolve and keep up with advances in technology, which fundamentally change user community expectations every few years. Mr. Murphy’s visionary ideas, as well as technical leadership, have had the most impact in this area. A few among his numerous contributions are the following: (1) an integrated but flexible architecture for the “front door” to NASA’s data holdings and services (https://earthdata.nasa.gov/), which provides an active and immersive user experience, leveraging current and emerging web services, (2) the Land, Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE), which provides access to data from several EOS instruments within less than 3 hours of observation, and (3) Global Image Browse Services (GIBS), a full-resolution, interactive browse capability, and the associated client, Worldview, opening up the data holdings to geographic information system users.
In summary, Kevin Murphy has made very significant contributions to science through his technical innovation and leadership in data systems development and Earth science informatics. His system development activities have greatly contributed to the vitality of NASA’s data and information systems and ensured ready access to a large body of Earth science data from NASA’s missions for the scientific and operational user community.
I am honored and humbled to receive the Charles S. Falkenberg Award from AGU and the Earth Science Information Partnership (ESIP). Both AGU and ESIP serve critical roles in the advancement of Earth science and communication of science results for societal benefit. Like all human endeavors, accomplishments in Earth science are built on the achievements of those who precede us; our progress is supported by the incremental advancements made in the past. My achievements would not have been possible without the support of a large community, so I would like to thank everyone at NASA’s Earth Science Data and Information System project, NASA’s Distributed Active Archive Centers, User Working Groups, and the ESIP community for supporting and helping to steer these activities.
My deep appreciation goes to Dawn Lowe, Hampapuram Ramapriyan, and Martha Maiden for embracing the ideas and resulting projects that led to this award. Thanks to Andrew Mitchell for being a patient and thoughtful sounding board from conceptualization to implementation and everyone else along the way. I also want to thank my family, particularly my wife, Tasnima, and our son, Marik, for their endless support, especially through the many weeks away and nights and weekends worked.
Back in the early 2000s, when I was a graduate student trying to access the open data being collected by NASA’s EOS instruments, I was frustrated by how difficult it was to find the data I needed, and how long it took to get those data. This experience created my first understanding of the need for improving access to NASA’s measurements for scientific use. At that point I did not realize how complicated it is to produce systematic global products and provide them to millions of users across the world day in and day out. The dedication and efforts of many people have created today’s more interoperable, accessible, and usable data systems; users around the world owe thanks to the many scientists, operators, and managers for this decades-long effort.
There is still a lot of work to be done. The way to improve is through continued work across the U.S. government, with international partners, and collaboration with industry today and in the future. Only by working together can we continue to improve our understanding of Earth’s environment and make this information available to a wide range of scientists and for global societal benefit.