Biodiversity Data Stewardship

 Heliconius comprise a colorful and widespread butterfly genus distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the New World. As shown  Helioconius sp.  Credits:  Richard Bartz , Munich aka  Makro Freak  - Own work.

Heliconius comprise a colorful and widespread butterfly genus distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the New World. As shown Helioconius sp. Credits: Richard Bartz, Munich aka Makro Freak - Own work.


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Venue: Decision Theater, Orchid House at the Brickyard, 21 E 6th St #126a, Tempe, AZ 85281

Supported: School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University

Date: 28 November 2018

Phone: +1-480-494-1149

Convener: Becket Sterner, Samantha Cheng and Katina Michael, Arizona State University

Program Schedule

8.30 a.m. Registration.

9.00 a.m. Keynote: Erik Johnston, Center for Smart Cities and Regions, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

10.00 a.m. Coffee. Speed Networking.

10.30 a.m. Kirk Jalbert, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

11.00 a.m. Dean Nieusma, Engineering, Design, & Society, Colorado School of Mines

12.00 p.m. Enlightening Lunch/Speaker. Daniel Sarewitz, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes

1.15 p.m. Samantha Cheng, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

2.00 p.m. Beckett Sterner, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University

3.00 p.m. Coffee.

3.30 p.m. Katina Michael, Centre for Engineering, Policy and Society, Arizona State University

4.30 p.m. Next Steps.

5.00 p.m. Close

Workshop Theme

This workshop will explore the use of data in biodiversity and biodiversity informatics.

Biodiversity informatics is a rather new field, which can be defined as the creation, improvement, analysis, and interpretation of information regarding biodiversity. (Source)

With so many stakeholders requiring access to biodiversity data the question of data collection, open data, data ownership, data availability, and data stewardship becomes pertinent. This workshop will discuss aspects of data governance as it pertains to applied projects.

Data stewardship is the management and oversight of an organization's data assets to help provide business users with high-quality data that is easily accessible in a consistent manner. (Source)

Innovative examples of the use of biodiversity data and design will be showcased demonstrating how stakeholders in society (e.g. private companies, citizens, government agencies, NGOs) can use data toward decision-making for sustainability of the species.

A g(local) approach to data collection will be debated, barriers to openness, challenges, privacy and security aspects and issues of data vintage and metadata availability. Citizen-science based approaches (e.g. will be compared and contrasted to scientific approaches of biodiversity data collection. The use of this data in quantitative and qualitative modelling will also be considered. Access to datasets owned by NASA and those by Google and other major government agencies and private corporations will deliberated in light of best practices in biodiversity data management.

How to train the next generation of non-computing professionals in biodiversity data science will be another major area of interest for workshop participants, all of whom come from varied disciplinary backgrounds.

Toward Responsible Data Stewardship


Abstract: This talks looks at the use of data in modeling and is grounded in the lessons learned from a series of major, collaboratively developed research projects at the Decision Theater. An emphasis is placed on the value of collaborative modeling, translating evidence to practice, and the ethical obligations of data stewards and researchers.

Biography: Associate Professor Erik Johnston, PhD. Dr. Johnston is an Associate Professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Director of Policy Informatics at the Decision Theater at Arizona State University. Johnston’s research focuses on open governance and policy informatics, the study of how computational and communication technology is leveraged to specifically understand and and realize innovations in communities, governance processes, and information interventions. At its simplest, his work tries to reduce the gaps between knowledge creation and use. Johnston earned a Ph.D. in Information and Complex System Certificate from the University of Michigan where he was a two-time NSF IGERT fellow. He holds an M.B.A. and an M.S. in Information Technology as well as a B.S. in Psychology and Computer Science from the University of Denver. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Helios Foundation, Arizona Board of Regents, American Academy of Diplomacy, US Army, and Virginia G. Piper Trust.

Kirk Jalbert


Biography: Kirk Jalbert is an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society with a joint appointment in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering at ASU. His research addresses how public engagements with environmental science and governance are shaped by the use of information technologies in energy justice movements. He focuses on understanding the unique informatics practices and knowledge infrastructures that emerge in these spaces. Prior to joining ASU, Jalbert worked in the nonprofit sector, facilitating data gathering and transparency projects in partnership with concerned citizen groups making sense of their relationships with the energy industry, particularly in the context of debates about the impacts of shale gas extraction and proposed pipeline projects. His recent edited volume, ExtrACTION: Impacts, Engagements and Alternative Futures, examines resistance to resource extraction from a critical ethnographic perspective, exploring why and how resistance movements seek to change extraction policies.

Dean Nieusma


Biography: Dean Nieusma is Division Director and Associate Professor of Engineering, Design, & Society. He received his Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and general studies from the University of Michigan. Prior to graduate school, he worked as a manufacturing engineer at Ford Motor Co. His research focuses on integrating social and technical dimensions of engineering in education and practice, with a focus on design and project-based learning. He is also broadly interested in the social and ethical implications of technologies and the application of engineering and design expertise to enduring social and environmental problems. He has received several awards and fellowships for research, teaching, and service, including a Fulbright fellowship (Sri Lanka) and, most recently, ASEE’s Olmsted Award for contributions to the liberal education of engineers.

Samantha Cheng


Biography: By training, Samantha Cheng is a population geneticist and conservation scientist, with experience both in the field working in tropical coral reefs, cephalopod fisheries, seafood sustainability - and in the policy sphere, engaging with diverse stakeholders in organizations, governments, and academic institutions to develop evidence-based solutions for conservation and human well-being outcomes. Cheng's research aims to improve understanding of the process of using scientific evidence in conservation planning and decision-making using a multi-disciplinary approach by systematically examining the role of evidence, methodology, interactions, and stakeholders to determine effective pathways from information to action to outcome. A project Cheng is pursuing at the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes along with Drs. Gerber and Anderson, is examining the public value of conservation, specifically from products of specific mechanism to move from evidence to outcomes, knowledge partnerships. Additionally, Cheng is also exploring the role that data science and technology can play in improving the use of evidence in conservation, leading to developing partnerships with data scientists and developers to design and deploy two apps that facilitate and democratize evidence uptake and use machine learning to help find evidence that matters, respectively. Cheng is a former Fulbright Fellow to Indonesia. At the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Cheng aims to contribute insight on best practices for pursuing evidence-informed policy and generating tenable, applicable, and sound science for fisheries management.

Becket Sterner


Biography: Beckett Sterner studies how mathematics is transforming biology, including biodiversity data aggregation, evolution of biological individuality, evolutionary tempo and mode, and methodology in systematic biology. He came to ASU in 2016 as an assistant professor in the Biology and Society Program and affiliated faculty in philosophy.

He started his career working in a computational biology lab studying protein function during college at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then switched to doing history and philosophy of science for his doctorate at the University of Chicago. He was a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Field Museum in Chicago (2012-2014) and a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Michigan Society of Fellows (2014-2016).

Katina Michael


Biography: Katina Michael is a professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. She studies the social implications of emerging technologies.

The emergence of big data sets pose socioethical implications, and many challenges related to data governance. Biodiversity data sets are particularly powerful and the clash between the privatisation and openness of these data sets is particularly of interest to researchers of all types who require data for their decision making.