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Peter Fox

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of AOP&E Adjunct Scientist Peter Fox on March 27. He was 61.

Dr. Fox served as editor-in-chief of Earth and Space Science and was the first AGU fellow in the Earth and Space Science Informatics Section.

Dr. Fox was known as a pioneer in informatics, particularly within the Earth and space sciences, and for his contributions to developing this discipline. He was also known for his playful sense of humor, his seemingly endless energy, and the way he always made time to help others, including as a generous and kind mentor to students and partners alike and a dedicated AGU volunteer.

Dr. Fox joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2008 as the Tetherless World Constellation Chair and taught at the school as a professor of Earth and Environment Science, Computer Science, and Cognitive Science. He also served for seven years as the director of the school’s IT and Web Science Program, from 2012 to 2020.

He had previously served as the chief computational scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and as a research scientist at Yale University. He also served as an adjunct scientist at WHOI in the AOP&E Department since 2009 and was a past president of both OPeNDAP and Earth Science Information Partners.

Joe Futrelle, WHOI information system specialist said “Peter approached his life’s work with joy, empathy, and a sharp vision of an interconnected world of knowledge. His legacy spreads far and wide because of his deep commitment to collaboration and his remarkable ability to listen. His immense impact on my career was just a small part of that legacy, and all of us in his wide orbit will miss him greatly.”

Stace Beaulieu, WHOI senior research specialist said “What is so clear from the community, and from individuals including myself, is that Dr. Fox had a profound impact not only at an international level but also at the individual level for so many individuals.”

The WHOI BCO-DMO team would like to acknowledge the enormous impact that Peter Fox had not only on the project but the individual members of the team. Peter’s guidance and expertise in Knowledge Engineering were instrumental in helping BCO-DMO re-envision its data management strategy. He was a mentor and sounding board for many of the team’s members and will be sorely missed.

Dr. Fox used his work to help advance the use of data across areas of scientific research — “fundamentally changing the way scientists approach the data they collect,” according to Rensselaer School of Science Dean Curt Breneman. In his work, Dr. Fox partnered with NASA, NOAA, the USGS, and many other organizations and groups worldwide.

Dr. Fox became the Editor-in-Chief of Earth and Space Science in 2019 and developed further the leadership role that the journal had in advancing practices around open science. His recent thank-you note to the journal’s 2020 peer reviewers highlighted the publication’s focus on the usefulness of findings.

Dr. Fox’s work was widely recognized. In addition to being an AGU Fellow, Dr. Fox was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018. He was awarded ESIP’s Martha Maiden Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes leadership, dedication, and collaboration in advancing Earth science; and the European Geosciences Union’s Ian McHarg Medal, which recognizes distinguished research in information technology applied to Earth and space sciences.

The number of lives that Dr. Fox touched was shown in the number of people who reached out with concern after he missed a meeting last week or wrote to say they had recently spoken or emailed with him. His death is a true loss for AGU, but his legacy of always pushing forward to the next innovation will live on. Other remembrances of Peter’s lasting impact are provided here, here, and here.

Information for this obituary is from AGU’s “From The Prow” website.