Peter Molnar

Peter Molnar
University of Colorado at Boulder

2018 GSA International Distinguished Career Award

Presented to Peter Molnar

Citation by Doug Burbank

With stunning breadth and clarity, Peter Molnar has revolutionized our understanding of the mechanisms of and controls on Earth's geologic evolution during the past several hundred million years. Molnar's research spans from Earth's deep interior to its atmosphere. Using his ability to capture the essence of apparently complex processes through relatively simple numerical expressions, Molnar has provided fundamental insights on mantle dynamics, crustal flow, continental collisions, the growth and decay of mountain belts, erosion, earth-ocean-atmosphere interactions, and connections among them. His groundbreaking syntheses of deformation in High Asia transformed understanding of the geodynamics of continental collisions.

Molnar is an unusually creative collaborator, allying with experts in far-flung fields to tackle major unresolved problems, ranging from the flow of olivine to the growth of continental plateaus. Molnar has been a remarkably generous and engaging mentor to literally hundreds of young and/or foreign scientists whose careers have been transformed through his efforts.

top2018 GSA International Distinguished Career Award — Response by Peter H. Molnar

Two aspects of the GSA make me proud to receive this award.

First, the GSA has a long tradition of focusing on quality. Everyone who has published a GSA Special Paper or Memoir or a paper in the Bulletin or Geosphere has received the tender loving care that the GSA provides its authors, in an effort to make our papers as good as they can be. Consistent with this emphasis on quality, my experience with the GSA is that when it gives awards, it bases decisions not on bean-counting, or metrics, but on thoughtful discussion of quality. Metrics merely offer shortcuts to mediocre minds to make misguided decisions.

Second, I have a strong memory, but have not been able to track down a copy, of a GSA policy on what might be called colonialism or imperialism. I recall reading an admonition from the GSA to those of us working in foreign countries to engage local scientists and to help them, not just find a local person whose name we could tack onto the end of a list of authors. Decades ago after reading this from the GSA, I contacted an Indian colleague before going to India to work in the field there. He not only joined us, but also brought GPS gear that doubled the scope of our work. We all benefitted from the GSA's advice.

This emphasis on quality, not quantity, and this anti-imperialistic policy make me proud to be a member of the GSA and even prouder to be recognized but the society.