[ESIP-all] Peter Fox: In Remembrance and with Unending Gratitude

Susan Shingledecker susanshingledecker at esipfed.org
Mon Mar 29 12:22:22 EDT 2021


We are resending this note shared with the ESIP Monday Update list to our
listserv to ensure all who need to see this news are reached. It is with an
incredibly heavy heart that we share the news of Peter Fox’s passing over
the weekend. We know this comes as a tremendous shock to all who knew
Peter. We are honored to share this joint tribute below written by so many
who knew Peter so well. In the days, weeks and months ahead, we will look
for appropriate ways to honor his memory and his legacy. Peter contributed
so much to the ESIP community and we are so grateful for his life and
leadership. We encourage you to share your memories and reflections on
this memory
to view this photo gallery
Peter in our community.

Ken Kasey, ESIP President

Denise Hills, ESIP Vice President

Susan Shingledecker, ESIP Executive Director
*Remembering Dr. Peter Fox - A titan in the Earth science informatics

With heavy hearts, we relay the shocking, sad news shared by Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
Sunday: Dr. Peter Fox died on March 27, 2021.

The Earth and space science informatics community lost a titan. We want to
express our condolences to his partner, Erica Veil, his family, and his
colleagues at RPI Tetherless World Constellation (TWC)
his current and past research group members and all of his collaborators.

Dr. Fox touched many lives. In his passing, we all have lost a friend,
mentor, and great leader. We know this short tribute covers just a fraction
of Peter’s impact. We have set up a Kudoboard memorial
capture all of our memories from around the world and develop a deeper
understanding of the legacy that Peter leaves.

Dr. Fox was known for convening the community. This message is shared by
the AGU Earth and Space Science Informatics (AGU ESSI) section
the EGU Earth and Space Science Informatics division (EGU ESSI)
the Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)
and the Australian Earth and Environmental Science Information Partners
the Geological Society of America Geoinformatics and Data Science division
the Research Data Alliance (RDA)
all organizations that Peter founded or championed during his incredible
career.  In 2012, when he received the Martha Maiden Lifetime achievement
award from ESIP, which honored his demonstrated leadership, dedication, and
collaborative spirit in advancing the field of Earth Science information
Peter said, “Your opinion of me is none of my business … rather I really
care  about what we’ve done and how we’ve done it as that is the most
important thing.”

As we grapple with the news of the loss of our dear friend, the
international data science community comes together to collectively
remember him. Dr. Fox made significant contributions to the Earth and space
science informatics community. From 1991 to 2008, Fox was at the High
Altitude Observatory (HAO) of NCAR in Boulder, Colorado, as Scientist until
1995, and Chief Computational Scientist from 1995 to 2008. As a Tetherless
World Constellation senior chair and professor of Earth and Environmental
Science, Computer Science and Cognitive Science and director of the
Information Technology and Web Science Program at RPI, Peter made
significant contributions to both domain science and informatics as he and
his group supported distributed scientific repositories and addressed “the
full life-cycle of data and information within specific science and
engineering disciplines as well as among disciplines (Source:Wikipedia

Helen Glaves, President of EGU said, “There are no words and so many words
all at once. We are deeply saddened and shocked by the passing of Dr. Peter
Fox. He was a pillar of the informatics community, and pivotal in
establishing the ESSI Division of EGU. In 2012 this contribution was
recognised by his peers when Peter received the Ian McHarg Medal for his
role in establishing informatics as a genuine discipline within the Earth
Sciences. We are grateful for the legacy that Peter Fox leaves and starting
with this collaborative remembrance, we are carrying his generous,
collaborative spirit forward.”

In the United States, Dr. Fox partnered with NASA, NOAA, USGS, and the US
Global Change Research Program. Dr. Rahul Ramachandran, Project Manager and
Senior Scientist, NASA said "Peter's contributions to the NASA Earth
Science Data community have been immense. His research in Informatics and
Data Science has had a lasting impact in defining the direction of science
data and information system evolution. But more importantly, he was
genuinely selfless in sharing his knowledge and touched so many lives. He
taught so many of us to be good researchers, gracious colleagues,
supportive mentors, and above all, to be generous human beings."

Dr. Fox began participating in ESIP in 2005 and in 2007, he founded ESIP’s
Semantic Web cluster, now the Semantic Technology Committee, to bring
experts from around the world together around Earth science semantic
technology.  Peter was instrumental in the formation of AGU ESSI and EGU
ESSI. Peter served as ESIP’s president from 2014-2016, during a pivotal
period of transition. He continued his involvement recently, when he
supported the US-Australian discussions on forming the Earth and
Environmental Science Information Partners, E2SIP. Peter felt strongly that
his fellow Australians really needed to combine with equivalent efforts in
ESIP and ASAP to maximise impact from both continents and avoid reinventing
the wheel separately from the rest of the world.

Dr. Fox was a treasured member of the first Research Data Alliance (RDA)
Technical Advisory Board (TAB)
2013 to 2016 and was instrumental in setting up and driving the RDA in its
early years. Even when he finished his term on TAB, Dr. Fox continued to be
involved in RDA groups and the community. In his keynote speech entitled
"Can it get any more important than this?", during the Opening Plenary
session of the RDA Launch, 18 March 2013 in Goteborg, Sweden, Dr. Fox had
many golden nuggets to impart to the audience, including "Work as if you
have already succeeded. Data needs to be a first class citizen, an object
of conversation." He argued for a focus on cultural activity of standards
adoption as well as technical activity of standards creation. He
characterised the Research Data Alliance as a socio-technical system.
"These have best practices which we [RDA] should be following. It is not
only about the data, it is about people, and the alliance." No truer words
were ever spoken about RDA.

Dr. Fox’s intellectual influence has been felt in a number of ways in
CODATA Task Groups and activities.  The current flagship initiative ‘Making
Data Work for Cross-Domain Grand Challenges’
roots in many places, including discussions with Dr. Fox on how to better
address issues of interoperability, how to draw lessons from informatics
work in many domains (including the Earth sciences), and how to engage more
effectively with some of the International Scientific Unions that make up
the ISC (International Science Council) community.  Indeed, within the
International Union of Geophysics and Geodesy, Dr. Fox had been
instrumental in establishing the Commission for Data and Information and
was its first Chair.  Dr. Fox served on two successive strategic planning
exercises for ICSU, the Strategic Committee on Information and Data (2018)
and the Strategic Coordinating Committee on Information and Data (2011).
The first of these led directly to the creation of the World Data System as
an international programme, building on the previous World Data Centres and
the Federation of Astronomical and Geophysical Data analysis Services.

Dr. Fox was a pioneer leading the Earth science community in acknowledging
the scientific contributions of informatics. This leadership was recognized
during 2018 when Peter became AGU ESSI’s first AGU Fellow. He was also
recognized during 2018 by AAAS as an elected Fellow in recognition of his
extraordinary achievements in advancing science.

Recently, Peter was the Editor in Chief of Earth and Space Science
He felt that this journal had a pivotal role to play in the community.  The
journal scope spans all of the Earth, planetary and space sciences, and the
journal notably welcomes papers presenting key data sets, observations,
methods, instruments, sensors, and algorithms showing their value and
application. By giving a place for important informatics and technical
contributions, he furthered the value of scientific datasets and
observations. The editors of the journal were personally selected to ensure
“usefulness of publications over traditional metrics.”  He valued
everyone’s contribution. Just last week he authored a thank you
all of the journal editors to all the reviewers for 2020. AGU Executive
Vice President Brooks Hanson noted that also, “Peter freely and eagerly
shared his advice, knowledge, inspiration, and leadership broadly with all
the other AGU editors and staff, and beyond.  He wanted the journal to make
a difference in science, and to move us forward faster. In one of our last
conversations, he said how much he loved being an editor for these reasons.”

An outstanding mentor, Dr. Fox encouraged his students to take leadership
roles - all three of the current student representatives to the GSA
Geoinformatics and Data Science Division (GIDS) Board are Peter's students.
Peter did not limit his guidance to students. Denise Hills (ESIP Vice
President, AGU ESSI Immediate Past President, GSA GIDS Past Chair)
expressed her experience with his mentorship as, “Peter was kind, generous,
and supportive yet didn’t take any nonsense from anyone about anything.
This includes any nonsense you may have believed about yourself. He has
believed in me when I did not, and more amazing to me - convinced me to
believe in myself. My professional and personal life would look very
different, and very much less enriched, without his influence.”

Peter’s mentorship extended far and wide, Dr. Chris Mattman, NASA JPL
echoed the importance of Peter’s mentorship saying, “I first came to know
Peter Fox during a time in which he was running four or five concurrent
large National Science Foundation projects. For any one person to run two
concurrently is a feat but that was Peter. I was introduced to him by my
mentor Rob Raskin and came to be immediately impressed with Peter’s
humility, intelligence and quick wit. We collaborated for over a decade and
I consider him a mentor and a dear friend. I will miss him greatly, as will
the world.”

Former ESIP Executive Director from 2010-2014, Carol Meyer summed it up
well when she said, “Peter Fox was a brilliant man, one who had clarity
about everything that had his attention. Peter was exceptional in every
sense of the word - intelligent, compassionate, talented, thoughtful,
generous, stylish and funny. The world is a better place because of his

Please share your Peter Fox stories through the Kudoboard
More will be planned to remember Peter at upcoming meetings and

*Acknowledgement and Contacts for groups*: This post was collaboratively
written by Erin Robinson (Metadata Game Changers, Past ESIP Executive
Director), Ken Casey (NOAA, ESIP President), Jeff de La Beaujardière (NCAR,
AGU ESSI President), Helen Glaves (EGU President), Hilary Hanahoe (RDA
Secretary General), Brooks Hanson (AGU Exec. VP of Science), Denise Hills
(ESIP Vice President), Simon Hodson (CODATA Executive Director), Danie
Kinkade (WHOI/BCO-DMO, AGU ESSI President-Elect), Jens Klump (CSIRO, EGU
ESSI Chair), Carol Meyer (US Chess Federation, Past ESIP Executive
Director), Rahul Ramachandran (NASA IMPACT), Kenneth Rubin (GSA GIDS
President), Susan Shingledecker (ESIP Executive Director), Shelley Stall
(AGU Sr. Director, Data Leadership) and many others.

We are grateful for the truly global collaboration across the following

   - The American Geophysical Union (AGU)
   - AGU Earth and Space Science Informatics Section (ESSI)
   - The Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP)
   - The European Geosciences Union (EGU)
   - EGU Earth and Space Science Informatics Division (ESSI)
   - The Earth and Environmental Science Information Partners (E2SIP)
   - Geological Society of America Geoinformatics and Data Science Division
   - The Research Data Alliance (RDA)

The text is freely available for anyone or organization in the Earth
science informatics community to use as they remember Dr. Peter Fox.

*Susan Shingledecker*
Executive Director
Earth Science Information Partners - ESIP

800.881.9418 | susanshingledecker at esipfed.org

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