The 2017 Alexander von Humboldt Medal is awarded to Johan Bouma for his outstanding contribution to connecting Earth science and society using a holistic approach.
Johan Bouma is a world leader in soil science and a pioneer working in the science-policy interface. In his career he studied the functional characterisation of soils, combining pedological and soil-physical expertise in a socio-economic context. He has focused on crop production, waste disposal and water availability, emphasising eco-regional land evaluation using quantitative simulation models while addressing policy issues. During a large part of his scientific career he worked in developing countries. Working with PhD students from developing countries was one of the back bones of his research. In these studies he made the connection between fundamental soil-science research and the daily life of African farmers. These experiences made him realise that it is of utmost importance to bring our scientific work to society; to transform our science into a valuable tool for policy making and sustainable land management. By combining his influential scientific advances in geosciences and his knowledge of the science policy interface, Bouma has made huge steps in this process and has been a pioneer and guide in improving the interactions between scientists and stakeholders. One of the activities done in this framework was his membership of the Scientific Council for Government Policy, a think-tank in the Dutch prime minister’s office, where he chaired working groups and presented reports on development cooperation, environmental policy, sustainable development and future studies. These experiences made Bouma realise that changing relations between science and society require a new research approach with stakeholders and policy makers. He has brought the science-policy interface to the forefront of people’s minds, and therefore Bouma is a very worthy recipient of the Alexander von Humboldt Medal. Soils are one of the key elements in the Earth system and with this medal the EGU recognises that as other spheres such as water, landforms, biota, atmosphere or rocks, there is a need for an interdisciplinary approach to the Earth sciences and to link science to policy and management.