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White House Honors “Champions of Change” in Open Science, Citizen Science

champions-of-changeThe White House Champions of Change program highlights the work of individuals, businesses, and organizations whose accomplishments have positively impacted our communities. On June 25th, the White House honored leaders and innovators in citizen science. Awards went to [quoting from the White House website]:

Margaret Gordon

Co-founder and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (EIP), a non-profit that works with neighborhood organizations, physicians, researchers, and public officials to ensure West Oakland residents have a clean environment, safe neighborhoods, and access to economic opportunity. In 2006, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized EIP for its “work to improve local air quality.” In 2007, Gordon was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame for her leadership on behalf of West Oakland’s residents. Due to Gordon’s knowledge of the Port of Oakland Maritime operation, she was nominated by Mayor Ron Dellums and selected by the Oakland City Council to the Port of Oakland Board of Commission in 2008. Margaret Gordon is a life-time resident of the Bay Area, mother of three adult sons and the grandmother of 14 grandchildren.

Ariel Waldman

She is the founder of Spacehack.org, a directory of ways to participate in space exploration, and the global instigator of Science Hack Day, an event that brings together scientists, technologists, designers and people with good ideas to see what they can create in one weekend. She is also a fellow at Institute For The Future. Recently, Ariel was appointed as a National Academy of Sciences committee member of a congressionally-requested study on the future of human spaceflight. In 2012, she authored a white paper on Democratized Science Instrumentation that was presented to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She has keynoted DARPA’s 100 Year Starship Symposium and O’Reilly’s Open Source Convention, and has also appeared on the SyFy channel.

Karen Oberhauser

She is a professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, where she and her students conduct research on monarch butterfly ecology. Her research depends on traditional lab and field techniques, as well as the contributions of multiple audiences through citizen science. Her strong interest in promoting scientific and environmental literacy led to the development of a science education program that involves courses for teachers and opportunities for youth to engage in research and share their findings with broad audiences. In 1996, she and graduate student Michelle Prysby started a nationwide Citizen Science project called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, which continues to engage hundreds of volunteers throughout North America. Karen is passionate about the conservation of the world’s biodiversity, and believes that nurturing connections between humans and the natural world promotes meaningful conservation action.

Greg Gage

He helps kids investigate the neuroscience in their own backyards and classrooms. During grad school, he co-founded a DIY Neuroscience company Backyard Brains with his labmate, Tim Marzullo. The goal of his organization is to produce advanced neuroscience equipment and experiments, but make them available and affordable to everyone. Electrophysiology (the electrical study of living nervous tissue) is typically only done in graduate labs. But now, students down to the 5th grade are recording “spikes” from neurons in the classroom!

Lee Ann Rodríguez

She is the DBAc in Resource Development Manager at the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, where she is the co-PI of an active National Science Foundation (NSF) award Efficacy of Informal Science Education Practices to Develop Hispanic Citizen Scientists in the Watershed of the Río Grande of Manatí, Puerto Rico. The project targets citizens with no scientific background to address nature conservation issues occurring in their communities. In a previous NSF award, Lee Ann was successful in co-leading a movement of more than 2,000 individuals engaged in over 600 nature-related activities within a two-year period. Lee Ann holds a BA in modern languages (French and German), an MA in translation (Spanish and English), and an MBA from the University of Puerto Rico. She is currently completing her doctorate degree in business administration at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.

Dolores Hill

She is a meteoriticist and co-lead, with Carl Hergenrother, of Target Asteroids!, a citizen science project of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission, led by Dante Lauretta of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona. In addition to her work analyzing meteorites, she has a lifelong interest in amateur astronomy and began as co-lead of Target Asteroids! in 2011. Amateur astronomers are important partners in the field of asteroid science, and their observations for Target Asteroids! aid the OSIRIS-REx mission, future missions to asteroids, and in understanding asteroids potentially hazardous to Earth. Target Asteroids!’s citizen scientists contributed 73 observations of 17 near-Earth asteroids in the first year of this decade long program that expands the role of citizen scientists in cutting edge asteroid research and serves as a model for other scientist-citizen scientist collaborations.

Jason Osborne

He is the president and co-founder of Paleo Quest, a 501c3 non-profit citizen science organization designed to advance the sciences of paleontology and geology through material contributions to museum collections, field exploration, scientific publication and the advancement of science education. Jason, along with Paleo Quest co-founder Aaron Alford, has developed SharkFinder™, a citizen science and STEM education program aimed at finding fossil elasmobranch (shark, skates and ray) remains that bring real, tangible science to classrooms and citizen scientist alike. He also promotes STEM education as a STEM mentor, host researcher and research lead for the JASON Learning/National Geographic/Sea Research Foundation. During normal working hours, Jason is an innovator in the development of cutting-edge biomedical lab instrumentation as a neurobiological instrument and systems designer for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, a leading biomedical research center where outstanding scientists from diverse disciplines use emerging and innovative technologies to pursue biology’s most challenging problems, particularly-how the brain works.

Julia K. Parrish

She is the Associate Dean of the College of the Environment at the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to her academic duties, Julia is the founder and Executive Director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), involving hundreds of coastal community members from California to Alaska in rigorous citizen science centered on ocean health. Together, Julia and her citizen team have mapped the influence of a changing climate, created the definitive baseline for environmental catastrophes from oil spills to harmful algal blooms, and connected people to the natural history and cool science of the beaches they love.

John Rowden

He works to empower people to protect their environment by including them in the process of studying it. Working for the New York City chapter of the National Audubon Society, he has reached across the five boroughs to include people in scientific research. For example, he trained, mentored and employed Bronx teenagers to collect data on wildlife in their neighborhoods and has included members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in monitoring the beaches of Jamaica Bay by providing on-site interpretation.

Dr. Sandra Henderson

She serves as the Director of Citizen Science at the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in Boulder, CO. One of her favorite parts of this job is overseeing NEON’s Project BudBurst (budburst.org), a national citizen program that was founded on the premise that every plant has a story to tell about our changing environments. Sandra is gratified that participants in Project BudBurst are from all walks of life, all ages, and all 50 states. Recently, she founded NEON’s Citizen Science Academy – an online professional development resource for educators, and she also served as the guest editor for a special issue of the Ecological Society of America’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment focused on citizen science. Sandra is a proud graduate of Oregon State University where she earned all three of her degrees.

Eri Gentry

She is an economist-turned-biotech entrepreneur and advocate for Citizen Science. She is the Founding President of BioCurious and past CEO, Cofounder of Livly, a non-profit cancer research company. Livly started in a Mountain View, California garage and soon built a community of both amateurs and professional scientists that completely outgrew its capacity to support collaborative work. Hence the need for BioCurious, the world’s first hackerspace model for biotechnology, now one of the largest DIYbio organizations in the world. Eri is a co-host of the Quantified Self and is the youngest board member of SynBERC, the NSF-funded center for research in synthetic biology.

Michael P. Cohn

He has volunteered many hours with the Cornell Ornithology Lab to install bird feeders and housings and monitor nests, and with the Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Project, a long-term nation-wide citizen science research initiative to uncover the causes of the alarming decline of kestrels across the country. In addition, Mike volunteers at the Northern Virginia Raptor Conservancy, helping to care and rehabilitate injured birds of prey rescued in the area. Mike is a participating Angler in the New York Angler Diary Cooperation Program, where he conducts annual species log reports on freshwater lakes and streams in the North East, and teaches workshops on fishing techniques to children and adults at the Buddie Ford Nature Center in Alexandria, Virginia. As a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, Mike understands the stress and anxiety experienced by returning soldiers; thus, he recently initiated Soldiers2Scientists, a citizen science project for returning soldiers to decompress in the American Great Outdoors, while conducting meaningful work that serves to protect and preserve our country’s resources.

On  June 20th, the White House honored 13 leaders and organizations promoting and using open scientific data and publications to accelerate progress and improve our world. Awards went to [quoting from the official White House press release]:

Atul Butte

Atul Butte is a pediatrician, geneticist, computer scientist, and entrepreneur at Stanford University and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Dr. Butte’s lab at Stanford builds and uses computational tools that convert more than 400 trillion points of molecular, clinical, and epidemiological data – measured by researchers and clinicians over the past decade and now increasingly publicly available — into diagnostics, therapeutics, and new insights into disease. In addition to creating new diagnostics and drugs for diabetes and cancers and stewarding the release of National Institutes of Health (NIH) immunology data to the public, Dr. Butte is a founder of Personalis, providing clinical interpretation of whole genome sequences, Carmenta, discovering diagnostics for life-threatening conditions in pregnancy from public data, and NuMedii, using public big data to find new uses for drugs.

David Altshuler

Endocrinologist and human geneticist David Altshuler is one of four founding members of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and serves as the Institute’s Deputy Director and Chief Academic Officer. He is a professor of genetics and medicine at Harvard Medical School and at Massachusetts General Hospital, and an adjunct professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Altshuler studies human genetic variation and its application to disease, using tools and information from the Human Genome Project. He has been a lead investigator in The SNP Consortium, the International HapMap Project, and the 1,000 Genomes Project – public-private partnerships that have created public maps of human genome sequence variation as a foundation for disease research. His work has contributed to the identification of gene variants that are associated with the risk of common conditions, including type 2 diabetes, elevated blood cholesterol, and myocardial infarction.

David J. Lipman

In his 24 years as the founding director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the NIH’s National Library of Medicine, David Lipman has had a tremendous impact on the amount of biomedical data and health information that are publicly and easily available to drive scientific discovery, help clinicians and patients, and promote development of innovative products and services. Dr. Lipman and his staff have built upon GenBank, the world’s largest public database of DNA data, with the development of more than 40 interlinked genomic and bibliographic databases freely available on the Web. Of particular note, in 2000, Dr. Lipman introduced PubMed Central (PMC) to provide free permanent electronic access to the full text of articles from participating journals, with rich links to related scientific data. PMC provided the essential infrastructure for the NIH Public Access Policy, which, since 2008, has made published NIH-funded research freely available to all for the benefit of public health.

Drew Endy

A bioengineer at Stanford, Drew Endy is also co-founder and President of BioBricks.org, a charity advancing biotechnology to benefit all people and the planet.  Over the past decade, Dr. Endy has provided early leadership and support for many open biotechnology programs including iGEM.org, a competition enabling over 10,000 students to explore biotechnology, OpenWetWare.org, a resource for sharing lab methods and results used by thousands of researchers, and BIOFAB.org, a public-domain factory for engineering high-quality standard biological parts. Dr. Endy and the BioBricks team underwrite an open technical standards-setting process for synthetic biology and, most recently, have developed the BioBrick Public Agreement (BPA) as a legal contract for making genetic materials free to share and use. His research teams have made many initial BPA contributions and encourage everyone to work together in growing a public domain “operating system” for engineering biology.

Eric Kansa

Eric Kansa is an archaeologist and a computer geek, with a passion for making knowledge of the human experience and shared cultural heritage available for everyone to explore and debate. Frustrated with the pervasive lack of access to quality research data in the humanities and social sciences, Dr. Kansa spearheaded the development of Open Context (http://opencontext.org), an open access publishing venue for data in archaeology and related fields. Dr. Kansa is an active and vocal member of a growing community in the US and abroad dedicated to better ethics and practices in sharing and preserving knowledge of the past.

Jack Andraka

Jack Andraka is a Maryland high-school student who at age 15 created a novel paper sensor that detects pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer in 5 minutes for as little as 3 cents. He conducted his research at Johns Hopkins University and was the winner of the 2012 Gordon E. Moore award at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and the 2012 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award, and was among Mrs. Obama’s guests at the 2013 State of the Union Address. He has spoken at TED Long Beach, over 11 TEDx events including House of Parliament, is the youngest speaker at the Royal Society of Medicine and has been featured on 60 Minutes, World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, NPR Marketplace, Popular Science, BBC, and Al Jazeera, as well as in award winning documentaries including “You Don’t know Jack” by Morgan Spurlock. Jack is currently working with a team of teens (Gen Z) on the Qualcomm Foundation Tricorder X Prize and speaks about open access, STEM education, and universal Internet availability. He is also on the national junior wildwater kayaking team, and has won awards at multiple national and international math competitions.

Jeremiah P. Ostriker

Jeremiah P. Ostriker has been an influential researcher in one of the most exciting areas of modern science, theoretical astrophysics, with primary work in the area of the interstellar medium, galaxies, quasars and cosmology, particularly the aspects that can be approached best by large-scale numerical calculations. He has also played a significant role in formulating and administering scientific projects and policy. He served for six years as Provost of Princeton University and is now serving a second term as Treasurer of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Ostriker, with P.J.E. Peebles, was among the first to show the importance and prevalence of dark matter in the universe and, with Paul Steinhardt, among the first to propose the current model for cosmology in which dark energy has caused the late time acceleration of cosmological expansion. Working with J.E. Gunn and D.G. York, he helped initiate the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which, surveying the sky with a relatively small telescope, produced an enormous and diverse set of astronomical discoveries and provided the data openly to the scientific community. He played leadership roles in several of the influential national decadal reports in astronomy that helped guide this discipline to great advances in the last half century.

John Quackenbush

John Quackenbush is Professor of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard School of Public Health. Since the Human Genome Project began in the 1990s, new technologies, producing previously unimaginable quantities of data on human health and disease, have been driving a revolution in medicine and biomedical research. Dr. Quackenbush has been a pioneer in ensuring that these data, and the tools needed to access them, are available, accessible, and useful. In 2011, he and colleague Mick Correll founded GenoSpace, a company that develops advanced software tools for collecting, interpreting, and sharing clinical and genomic data to further biomedical research and facilitate personalized medicine. To support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s groundbreaking CoMMpass study, GenoSpace has created software portals that both engage patients as partners in defeating the disease and provide advanced analytical tools to make the invaluable study data open to scientists everywhere who are interested in finding cures.

Kathy Giusti

Kathy Giusti is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) and a multiple myeloma patient. Under Ms. Giusti’s leadership, the MMRF, working in close partnership with academic and industry partners, has made unprecedented progress against multiple myeloma. Over the last decade, six new treatments have been approved by the FDA, the myeloma genome sequenced, and patients’ survival has doubled.  Most recently, the MMRF launched the CoMMpass study, a landmark study to define the molecular subtypes of the disease to drive toward precision medicine. The study will follow 1,000 newly diagnosed multiple myeloma patients longitudinally over at least five years, collecting comprehensive clinical data and tissue samples which will be extensively analyzed using cutting-edge sequencing technology. CoMMpass data will be placed into an open-access data platform, together with data from other MMRF-driven initiatives as well as from other sources entirely, to create the most robust set of clinical and genomic data in any cancer that is openly available to researchers worldwide. In 2011, Ms. Giusti was named to the TIME 100 List of the world’s most influential people and has received numerous awards and honors for her work, the Harvard Business School Leadership Award and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Vermont.

Paul Ginsparg

A theoretical physicist by training, Paul Ginsparg created an open access system in 1991 for his research community to share its cutting-edge results.  Now called arXiv.org, and moved from Los Alamos National Laboratory to Cornell University, it serves as the primary daily information feed for global communities of researchers in physics, mathematics, computer science, and related fields. Today, arXiv.org supports hundreds of millions of full-text downloads per year by researchers and the general public, and continues to grow. Its proof-of-concept also served as the prototype for many other modern open access systems for scientific research.

Rebecca Moore

Rebecca Moore is an Engineering Manager at Google, where she initiated and leads the development of Google Earth Engine, a new technology platform that puts an unprecedented amount of satellite imagery online for the first time and enables scientists to conduct global-scale monitoring and measurement of changes in the Earth’s environment. Ms. Moore also conceived and leads the Google Earth Outreach program, which supports nonprofits, communities, and indigenous peoples around the world in applying Google’s mapping tools to the world’s pressing problems in areas such as environmental conservation, human rights, and cultural preservation. Ms. Moore received a Bachelor’s degree with honors from Brown University in Artificial Intelligence and a Master’s degree from Stanford University. Her personal work using Google Earth was instrumental in stopping the logging of more than 1,000 acres of redwoods in her Santa Cruz Mountain community.

Stephen Friend

Stephen Friend is a world leader in efforts to make large-scale, data-intensive biology more openly accessible to citizens and the entire research community in order to accelerate scientific progress. He began using large datasets and integrative system biology approaches to understanding complex diseases in the mid-1990s, and has taken his efforts from medicine to academia to biotechnology to big pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Friend is currently the President of Sage Bionetworks whose mission is to redefine how complex biological data are gathered, shared, and used, by redefining it through open systems, incentives, and norms.

William Noel

An advocate for generation of open data by museums and rare book repositories, William Noel directed a twelve-year project that successfully retrieved the erased texts of a thirteenth century prayer book. These erased texts included treatises by Archimedes, speeches by Hyperides, and a lost commentary on Aristotle’s Categories. He also pioneered the presentation of machine-readable, openly licensed datasets of digitized illuminated medieval manuscripts on the web.


If you know someone doing extraordinary things to make a difference in your community (and not just in science), nominate them to be a Champion of Change at http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions/nominate.

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