Naomi Oreskes

Naomi Oreskes
Harvard University

2015 Public Service Award

Presented to Naomi Oreskes

Citation by Patricia A. McCrory

This year’s recipient of the GSA Public Service Award is Professor Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University. Trained as both a geologist and historian of science, Professor Oreskes boasts a distinguished record of scholarship elucidating how new discoveries are made, and then accepted or rejected by scientists and the public. In parallel, she has been active in myriad scholarly and public outreach activities related to the use of geoscience information for the resolution of resource and environmental issues. Her work challenging the notion that numerical models in the Earth Sciences can be “validated” helped frame important policy debates over nuclear waste disposal. Dr. Oreskes is best known for her courageous analyses of disinformation about the scientific consensus that human activities are changing climate. This work, the focus of the 2010 coauthored book Merchants of Doubt, is also featured in two critically acclaimed documentary films: An Inconvenient Truth and Merchants of Doubt.

top2015 Public Service Award — Response by Naomi Oreskes

The first time I won an award for “service,” I felt ambivalent. Those of us in academia know only too well that the three-legged stool of research, teaching, and service is a lopsided one: no one ever got tenure for service. And as women we know also only too well that it is easy to be type cast as being “caring,” which, in our line of work, is often viewed as less significant than being brilliant or creative. However, over the years I have come to a different view: that ultimately, everything we do is service. After all, what is the purpose teaching if not to serve our students? What is the purpose of research if not society? And why should any earth scientist be ashamed to care about this beautiful rock we call Earth and the life that depends upon it? So now I am no longer ambivalent. On the contrary, I am deeply honored to accept the GSA public service award.