Press Release

Ernest J. Moniz Named Inaugural Recipient of Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs


The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has named Ernest J. Moniz, nuclear physicist and former United States Secretary of Energy, the recipient of the inaugural Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs that was created to recognize excellence, independence and effectiveness in public service. Professor Moniz will receive the award during the Academy’s Annual Award Ceremony on April 11, 2019 at the Academy’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The American Academy was founded, according to its Charter, to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” This inaugural Award recognizes Professor Moniz for his ability to combine intellectual accomplishment with the public service ideals of the Academy, ideals that remain of paramount importance today.

Professor Moniz is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), a Washington-based energy technology and policy innovation non-profit, as well as Co-Chair of the Board of Directors and CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which reduces the risks of use of weapons of mass destruction and disruption. He served as the thirteenth United States Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama from 2013 to January 2017. In that role, Professor Moniz negotiated, with Secretary of State John Kerry, the historic Iran nuclear agreement and, on the road to the Paris Climate Agreement, led the international initiative that placed energy technology innovation at the forefront of the global climate change response.

“I am greatly honored to be the first recipient of the Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an organization of scholars at the forefront of deepening the relationship between academia and the public,” Professor Moniz said. “The ability of scientists and policymakers to reach the widest audience will help the world execute actionable, innovative, science-based solutions to the most pressing energy and national security challenges of our time.”

“Ernie’s work combines deep intellect and broad impact,” said David W. Oxtoby, President of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. “Ernie exemplifies values that are important to the American Academy by applying scholarship to service and bringing policy concerns to academia. He is the perfect choice for our inaugural recipient of the Award for Excellence in Public Policy and Public Affairs.”

Moniz was on the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1973 until 2013, when he became Secretary of Energy, and is now the Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems Emeritus and Special Advisor to the MIT President. He was the founding Director of the MIT Energy Initiative.

Steven Miller (Harvard Kennedy School), a member of the Academy’s governance who also serves on the Academy’s Committee on International Security Studies, observed, “Ernie combines distinguished high-level public service with outstanding intellectual accomplishment, and is widely viewed as representing a model of how deep technical expertise can contribute decisively to the successful management of serious and complicated policy issues.”

As Secretary of Energy, Professor Moniz advanced energy technology innovation, nuclear security and strategic stability, cutting-edge capabilities for the American scientific research community, and environmental stewardship. Under his leadership, the Department of Energy produced analytically based energy policy proposals that attracted bipartisan support, elevated the Department’s unique national laboratory system as a core part of America’s science and technology enterprise, and advanced both nuclear deterrence without testing and the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Professor Moniz previously served in government at the Department of Energy’s Under Secretary from 1997 until January 2001 with science, energy, and nuclear security responsibilities, and from 1995 to 1997 as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy with responsibility for the physical, life, and social sciences. He was a member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a member of the Defense Threat Reduction Advisory Committee from 2009 to 2013. He also served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future that provided advice, particularly on nuclear waste management, to the President and the Secretary of Energy.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, founded in 1780, honors excellence and brings together members and other leaders across disciplines, fields, and professions to pursue nonpartisan research and provide critical insight on issues of profound importance to the nation and the world. Areas of focus include the arts and humanities, democracy, education, global affairs, and science policy.