Scripps professor appointed to two prestigious spots

    John Orcutt, professor of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has been voted president-elect of the American Geophysical Union. He will assume the presidency of the 39,000-member organization July 1, 2004.

    “”It pleases me greatly,”” Orcutt said of the news. “”It’s a great honor to be elected for an organization with so much history. There have been some great presidents of the AGU over the course of 50 years.””

    The AGU is a nonprofit organization established in 1919 by the National Research Council. It has operated for the past 50 years as an unincorporated affiliate of the National Academy of Sciences.

    One of Orcutt’s top priorities as AGU president will be converting written forms of research to electronic publications.

    “”The AGU is more than 100 years old and it has published the results of its research on paper,”” Orcutt said. “”We’ve just made the transition to electronic form while continuing paper form, but that transition is very expensive, so selling this idea of electronic publishing is not trivial given these increased costs.””

    Orcutt also added that if the transition were to fail, it would be a disaster, because the AGU depends on income from publications to a large extent. Nevertheless, he does not foresee this to be a problem.

    Serving two terms as head of the publication’s department before being voted president-elect, Orcutt said he is very aware of the dynamics of the situation.

    “”I’ve been general secretary for four years in this organization, and what I do largely in this job is take care of the money and worry about the bottom line each year,”” Orcutt said. “”So I don’t go into the job of president without knowing that we have a lot of problems to deal with.””

    In addition to his involvement in the AGU, Orcutt acts as director of the San Diego Branch of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.

    As for his thoughts on the future, Orcutt said he is optimistic of the possibilities in oceanography that today’s advanced technology allows.

    “”It’s really a great time for oceanography,”” Orcutt said. “”Advances in satellite communications and technology — all these things have come together at a time when it makes it remarkably practical. Technology is there and certainly the scientific need [is there] as well.””

    Orcutt added that many scientists would like to see permanent research sites studying the world’s oceans. He said to really understand and study them, something needs to be underwater permanently.

    Statewide director of the IGPP professor Bernard Minster said Orcutt’s being elected did not surprise him.

    “”He has an extremely distinguished record,”” Minster said. “”It was no surprise. I think he’s extremely well-respected and has the devotion of everyone at the IGPP.””

    Dr. Mark Zumberge, deputy director of the San Diego branch of the IGPP, agrees.

    “”It’s going to be very good for the AGU because he’s an excellent leader,”” Zumberge said. “”He has high standards of scientific integrity and he just sets a great example of how to be productive in the world of science.””

    Orcutt is a fellow of AGU and a member of the Seismological Society of America and Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

    In addition to serving as AGU president, Orcutt has accepted an appointment on the Scientific Advisory Panel of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.

    The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy was mandated by the Oceans Act of 2000, an act that reviews the effects of federal ocean-related laws and programs. This federal legislation requires the commission to make findings and offer recommendations for improving the structure of federal agencies involved in the world’s oceans.

    Orcutt is among 16 commissioners appointed by President George W. Bush and nominated by Congress.

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