Citation by J. Douglas Walker
I am delighted to present the 2020 Geological Society of America’s Presidential Metal to Dr. Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy and director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley. Hsiang earned two BS degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; one in Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science and the other in Urban Studies and Planning.. He then received his PhD in Sustainable Development from Columbia University, did a Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Applied Econometrics at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and another in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy at Princeton University before joining the faculty at Berkeley. He also is an Andrew Carnegie Fellow.
I first became aware of Dr. Hsiang’s scientific work through his novel series of papers that tied climate disruption to civil and national conflicts. Since then, Hsiang’s and his team have developed the template on how to do research that effectively couples the physical and social sciences by integrating econometrics, spatial data science, and machine learning. Through this multifaceted approach, Hsiang and his colleagues are coming to answers on seminal questions central to managing our planetary resources into the future; what might be the economic value of the global climate, how effective are of treaties governing the oceans, and can satellites and artificial intelligence combined monitor the entire planet in real time. His team’s paper, The COVID-19 lockdowns: a window into the Earth System, recently published in Nature Reviews: Earth and Environment, should be must reading for earth scientists.
Full disclosure here; I taught Dr. Hsiang how to identify minerals and play chess during his childhood. Even then I recognized “Solly’s” intellectual and social talents and so am personally delighted to present him this well-deserved award on behalf of the Geological Society of America.