2024 Pioneer In Tech: Fran Berman

NCWIT is excited to announce Fran Berman, PhD, as the 2024 recipient of the Pioneer in Tech Award! 
 
Stay tuned for a recording of her award celebration! She spoke at the start of the 2024 NCWIT Summit in Kansas City, Missouri, and shared insights and thoughtful advice for the technologists of today and tomorrow.

Francine (Fran) Berman, PhD, is a data scientist, teacher, mentor, and computing leader. Her interests span public interest technology (PIT), cyberinfrastructure, and the social impacts of technology, and her work has focused on the information technology impacts, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT) — how billions of interconnected devices and systems are transforming science and society alike.

She is a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she is the Director of Public Interest Technology, the Stuart Rice Honorary Chair & Research Professor in the Manning College of Information & Computer Sciences, and a member representative with the NCWIT Higher Ed AllianceShe’s also taught and held fellowships at several other universities in the NCWIT Higher Ed Alliance throughout her distinguished career, including: Harvard, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego).

Since science and technology have the potential to address and solve society’s most pressing issues, Fran is an outspoken advocate on many arising tech concerns, including the impending data infrastructure crisis. She champions digital preservation and the development of information technologies to maximize benefits, minimize risks, and promote individual protections, the public interest, and planetary responsibility.

Addressing these issues requires the inclusion of problem-solvers who are representative of the greater culture at large. Fran’s tireless work created a lasting impact on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women STEM, particularly in computer science. As a founding member of the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W), she served as co-chair from 1994 to 1997. The Computing Research Association (CRA) is now a member of the NCWIT Affinity Alliance

As the first editor for CRA-W, she created an editorial column entitled “Expanding the Pipeline” as a forum for women. It has since expanded to include projects and issues related to underrepresented groups in CS and computer science engineering. To learn more, read this Q&A interview with CRA reflecting on her time there – as well as her previous roles as  Director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center at UC San Diego and Vice President of Research at RPI.

For her visionary work and accomplishments, Fran has been recognized by the Library of Congress as a “Digital Preservation Pioneer,” designated as a “top technologist” by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and also served as member of the National Council on Humanities from 2015-2020 after being nominated by President Barack Obama. 

Color photo of the metallic trophy for NCWIT Pioneer in Tech Award winner Fran Berman on a table in front of glass trophies for the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Collegiate Award winners at the 2024 NCWIT Summit in Kansas City. Text reads: "ncwit.org | Pioneer in Tech Award presented to FRAN BERMAN for inspiring future generations through her pioneering contributions that elevated the field of technology. May 2024"
A Legacy of Leadership

Fran is a member of the Board of Trustees of Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and a member of the National Council on the Humanities, as well as a Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

Below, find a list of influential leadership positions Fran previously held:

  • Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, an NCWIT Affinity Alliance member organization

  • Chair of the Information, Computing and Communication Section (Section T) of the AAAS

  • Chair of the Research Data Alliance

  • Co-Chair of the National Academies Board on Research Data and Information

  • Co-Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access

  • Co-Chair of the National Science Foundation Advisory Committee for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate

  • Co-Chair of the National Research Council Board on Research Data and Information
About the Award

The NCWIT Pioneer in Tech Award recognizes technical women whose lifetime contributions have significantly impacted the landscape of technological innovation, amplifying the importance of capitalizing on the diverse perspectives that girls and women can bring to the table. Pioneer in Tech Award recipients also serve as role models whose legacies continue to inspire generations of young women to pursue computing and make history in their own right.

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