Zuheir Altamimi | 2019-10-24

A welcome message from the IAG President

It is my pleasure to welcome you all, dear visitors of the IAG website, or readers of the IAG Newsletter. It is a great honor for me to serve as IAG President for the period 2019-2023, and to work with the members of the Executive Committee to advance geodesy and our association.

The International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), comprising 8 associations, including our International Association of Geodesy (IAG), celebrated its 100th anniversary on July 29, 2019 at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The activities of IUGG in the years following its creation have been dominated by geodesy, hence probably the precedence of the term "geodesy" to the term "geophysics" in the name of the union.

The advent of space geodesy since the early 1960s has revolutionized the role of geodesy and its contribution to Earth sciences and societal applications. Geodesy is therefore global by nature, and a science in its own right, serving to quantify and improve our knowledge of temporal variations of the three fundamental properties of the Earth: its shape, its gravity field and its orientation in space. A truly global geodetic reference frame has become not only achievable, but also the indispensable standard by which these temporal variations are quantified and thus easily interpreted.

My election as President of the International Association of Geodesy (IAG) for the period 2019-2023 coincides not only with the hundredth anniversary of the association, but also with the multiple challenges facing geodesy today.

IAG, through the work of its international services, provides unique and critical geodetic products for Earth science and positioning applications: satellite orbits, terrestrial and celestial reference frames, Earth orientation parameters, gravity fields, etc. The development of these products is based on a geodetic infrastructure that is in danger of degradation and sustainability on the long-term, due mainly to budgetary reasons, but also due to the public ignorance of the essential contribution of geodesy to society. Not being the owner of the geodetic infrastructure - funded by national mapping agencies, space agencies, universities and research laboratories -, the IAG must therefore rely on international initiatives to ensure the long-term sustainability of the geodetic infrastructure.

The United Nations "UN-GGIM" initiative on global geospatial information management, including geodesy, the resolution (http://ggim.un.org/documents/A_69_L53_E.pdf) adopted by its General Assembly in February 2015 on the global geodetic reference frame for sustainable development, and the creation of a sub-committee on geodesy under the umbrella of UN-GGIM, represent an opportunity that the IAG should not miss. No one single country can provide alone all the geodetic products that are fundamental to society, and therefore the establishment of an intergovernmental mechanism, and the creation of an operational global  geodetic center on a global scale become obviously the way to follow in order to ensure the sustainability of global geodesy.

I am thankful to the IAG Council who elected me and the EC members for the four years to come, and will do my very best to meet the Council expectation in order to advance geodesy and our association. Among other missions and duties of the IAG components, the following are key points that need to be emphasized within the activities of IAG during the coming period:

  • Commission 1: to advance theory, realization and future needs of reference frame determination and representations, taking into account that our planet is constantly deforming;
  • Commission 2: to advocate for new gravity satellite missions that are needed to increase the accuracy of gravity measurements and our understanding of Earth mass changes, but also to advance the development of the International Height Reference Frame (IHRF);
  • Commission 3: to advance the contribution of geodesy to seismology, volcanology and natural hazards;
  • Commission 4: to embrace new sensors and technologies for increasing the precision of positioning applications;
  • Inter-Commission Committee on Theory (ICCT): to enhance geodetic theory, but also applied geodesy for the continuous improvement of IAG fundamental products;
  • IAG Services: to continue their hard work in improving their geodetic products in response to user needs and new challenges;
  • GGOS: to focus more on advocacy to the outside, and promote the work of IAG Commissions and Services and their geodetic products. GGOS should not appear as or replace IAG, but as an IAG ambassador to the outside, in order to preserve the IAG branding image.
The newly established Inter-Commission Committees on Climate Research and Marine Geodesy, as well as the planning group on Novel Sensors and quantum technology need to be active during the coming years in order to demonstrate the contribution of geodesy to answer critical scientific questions.

IAG continuous success relies on the contribution of all of you to its activities. Young scientists in particular should also feel at home within IAG and are encouraged to contribute to its various working and study groups.

Let’s work together and contribute to the continuous success of our Association.

Sincerely yours

Zuheir Altamimi

President, International Association of Geodesy

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