Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Vice President for Research Francine Berman will transition from her current position to expand her efforts within the research data community, while remaining at the Institute as a tenured computer science professor. An international leader in digital data, she will help develop global initiatives to accelerate data-driven innovation from her position as full professor in the Rensselaer School of Science, effective July 1.

 Berman transitions to her new role at a time when “Big Data” and data-driven research are becoming a national priority, and her expanded efforts in the data community represent an exciting opportunity for her, and for the Institute. Her ongoing efforts in the data community as well as her recent appointment as co-chair of the National Academies Board on Research Data and Information and her service as former co-chair of the U.S. and United Kingdom Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access will add strength to the Rensselaer Information Technologies and Computational Science and Engineering signature research thrust.

“Since joining Rensselaer in 2009, Dr. Berman has continued to enhance our approach to interdisciplinary research that we have built between research disciplines at all levels of the institution, from undergraduates to endowed faculty, and with our partnerships in government and industry,” said Rensselaer President Shirley Ann Jackson. “Under Dr. Berman’s leadership, the research productivity and research infrastructure of Rensselaer has grown.”

Berman transitions at a time when new international organizations are being formed, such as the DataWeb Forum, an organization to facilitate the exchange and interoperation of scientific data across disciplines and national boundaries. This new forum is designed to give the broad global community an opportunity to join in the discussion on the future of scientific data.

“I am excited about emerging plans for the DataWeb Forum, an IETF-style organization for the data community,” Berman said. “This and other community efforts will provide needed coordination for the data community and will help accelerate data-driven innovation.” 

One of the leading voices behind the creation of the DataWeb Forum, Chris Greer of the Information Technology Lab at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, welcomed Berman’s decision to focus on data innovation.

“Fran Berman is already well known for her leadership as a data evangelist in the U.S. We’re excited that she is expanding her efforts to the international community,” said Greer.  “Harmonizing global science data infrastructure in the way that networks are harmonized to create the Internet can drive discovery, innovation, and education across the U.S. and around the world.”

Prior to joining Rensselaer in 2009 and during her time at the Institute, Berman has been a leader in her profession. In addition to her past role on the international blue ribbon data task force and her new role with the National Academies Board on Research Data and Information, she has served on a broad spectrum of national and international leadership groups. These include: the National Science Foundation Engineering Advisory Committee, the National Institutes of Health NIGMS Advisory Committee, the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology Board of Trustees, and the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Review Working Group of the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

 Berman is 2013 chair of the Information, Computing and Communication Section (Section T) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and vice-chair of the Anita Borg Institute Board of Trustees. For her accomplishments, leadership, and vision, Berman was recognized by the Library of Congress as a “Digital Preservation Pioneer,” as one of the top women in technology by BusinessWeek and Newsweek, and as one of the top technologists by IEEE Spectrum.

 Berman is a fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM) and a fellow of the IEEE. In 2009, she was the inaugural recipient of the ACM/IEEE-CS Ken Kennedy Award for “influential leadership in the design, development, and deployment of national-scale cyberinfrastructure.”Prior to joining Rensselaer, Berman was professor in the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and first holder of the High Performance Computing Endowed Chair in the Jacobs School of Engineering there. From 2001 to 2009, Berman served as director of the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC), where she led a staff of more than 250 interdisciplinary scientists, engineers, and technologists. Berman is one of the two founding principal investigators of the National Science Foundation’s TeraGrid project, and also directed the National Partnership for Advanced Computational Infrastructure (NPACI), a consortium of 41 research groups, institutions, and university partners with the goal of building national infrastructure to support research and education in science and engineering.

Berman is a native of California, and earned her bachelor’s in mathematics in 1973 from the University of California, Los Angeles. She went on to earn her master’s and doctorate in mathematics from the University of Washington. She began her teaching career at Purdue University in 1979, and joined UCSD in 1984.