president wins top post
in international society
March 9, 1998
Marcia K. McNutt, president and chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Research Institute (MBARI) has been elected president of the American Geophysical Union
(AGU), a scientific organization dedicated to advancing the understanding of Earth and its
environment in space and making the results available to the public. AGU has 35,000
members in more than 115 countries.
"I can imagine no greater honor than serving the AGU in the capacity of
president," McNutt commented. "AGU has been my professional home for more than
20 years." A geophysicist by training, McNutt has served on numerous AGU
administrative committees and as president of the tectonophysics section, one of 10 major
divisions in the organization.
AGU has two primary purposes. One is to promote rapid and widespread communication of
high-quality geophysical research among its members. In pursuit of this aim
President-elect McNutt advocates electronic publishing of AGUs dozen or more
journals as a way of extending rapid communication of research results. "Its
critical that we get more involved in electronic publishing," McNutt said. "It
provides much better service to institutions, is more economical than stocking back issues
of journals, and it conserves resources."
The other objective of AGU is to support public education, and furnish informed advice,
on matters and policies concerning Earth and its space environment. With respect to advice
on policy issues, McNutt contended "One often sees decisions being made based on
political reasons that masquerade as scientific reasons. We at AGU can do a lot more to
provide scientific information to decision-makers at local, regional, national, and
international levels. Scientists are often reluctant to speak out because new data is
constantly streaming in. But sound policy requires the best scientific input, so at some
point scientists must be willing to make statements."
In addition to encouraging individual scientists to contribute their knowledge to
discussions of policy issues, McNutts goal is to promote an expansion of AGUs
public affairs efforts. "Providing more and better scientific information is a matter
of opening conduits," she said, "and the best conduits are people." Once in
office, she hopes to encourage an expansion of the AGU program that supports
science-trained Congressional fellows, who work as staffers on federal legislative
committees related to education and public policy issues.
Her experience in university teaching has given McNutt a sensitivity to the challenges
facing todays students in Earth scienceswhich relates to another of her goals
as president: She wants the AGU to recognize more often the accomplishments of students
and facilitate their search for fellowships, post-doctoral appointments, and other
employment in areas that go beyond geophysical research and education.
A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, McNutt holds a B.A. in physics from Colorado
College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and a Ph.D in Earth sciences from Scripps Institution
of Oceanography, La Jolla, California. After postdoctoral research at Scripps, she taught
at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, then took a position with the U.S. Geological
Survey, Menlo Park, California to work on earthquake prediction. McNutt was a professor of
geophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 19821997 and,
from 19951997, served as director of the Joint Program in Oceanography and Applied
Ocean Science and Engineering, a graduate program administered by MIT and Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution. Much of McNutts scientific research has involved the use
of geophysical data to study the physical properties of the Earth beneath the oceans. She
became president/chief executive officer of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
(MBARI) in September 1997. She will hold her post as president-elect of AGU for two years
beginning in June, followed by a two-year term as president starting in 2000.
Contact: Debbie Meyer, Communications