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Francine Berman Named 2024 NCWIT Pioneer in Tech Award Winner

Fran Berman
Fran Berman

The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) will recognize Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences (CICS) Stuart Rice Honorary Chair and Research Professor Francine Berman as the recipient of the prestigious 2024 Pioneer in Tech Award during their annual summit on May 20–22 in Kansas City, Missouri.  

Berman, a distinguished data scientist, educator, and computing leader, has made profound impacts on the technological landscape through her groundbreaking research, influential mentorship, and unwavering commitment to ethical and inclusive technology.  

The NCWIT Pioneer in Tech Award recognizes women whose contributions have helped shape technological innovation and highlights the importance of incorporating diverse perspectives into the industry. Pioneer in Tech Award recipients also serve as role models, highlighting the importance of including diverse perspectives in the industry, inspiring future generations of women to pursue computing, and encouraging them to make their own mark on history. 

Berman’s journey in technology has been characterized by a dedication to addressing societal challenges and promoting the public interest in a tech-driven world. As the director of Public Interest Technology (PIT) and co-founder of the Public Interest Technology Initiative at UMass Amherst (PIT@UMass), she has played a pivotal role in shaping the discourse surrounding the responsible and ethical use of technology in a world where tech has become critical infrastructure. 

Berman’s leadership in PIT has been instrumental in fostering collaboration and innovation across disciplines. In 2022, the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) welcomed the University of Massachusetts Amherst as a member of its national consortium of universities across the United States dedicated to advancing public interest technology. This announcement coincided with the launch of PIT@UMass, a campus-wide program providing a general education course in public interest technology for all undergrads, expanded course offerings, experiential learning opportunities, and a newly launched certificate designed to help students strengthen technical and social literacy skills while developing pragmatic strategies for promoting all aspects of responsible technology use and development. 

“Education in the 21st century must reflect the world we live in and should give us the skills and perspective to master the technologies that increasingly drive our lives,” said Berman. “Public Interest Technology is an investment in a better future because today’s students will become tomorrow’s professionals, public servants, and citizens. They, and we, want our efforts to help society and humanity thrive.”  

In addition to her work advancing PIT, Berman has spearheaded initiatives aimed at maximizing the benefits of information technology while safeguarding individual rights and promoting planetary responsibility. Her advocacy for the preservation of digital data echoes her belief that data stewardship is essential in the “cyberworld,” akin to preserving natural resources in the physical world. In 2012, she co-founded the Research Data Alliance (RDA), a community-driven international organization that builds global infrastructure to enable data sharing and data-driven research. "Preserving valued data in the information age is fundamental to ensure that it will continue to inform and enrich our world for the foreseeable future,” said Berman.   

Perhaps one of Berman’s most impactful contributions lies in her efforts to advance the participation of women in STEM fields, particularly computer science. Berman is an outspoken advocate for initiatives that enhance the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in computing. She was a founding member of the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women (CRA-W), serving as co-chair from 1994 to 1997. As the first editor for CRA-W, she created the editorial column “Expanding the Pipeline” as a forum that has since expanded to include projects and issues related to underrepresented groups in computer science and computer science engineering. Subsequent to that, she served as co-Chair and then Chair of the Anita Borg Institute Board of Trustees, the organization that hosts the annual Grace Hopper Celebration for women in technology. 

"Fran's career represents a singular dedication to leadership in developing beneficial frameworks for information technology," said CICS Dean Laura Haas. "Her long record of leadership in ensuring that computing and technology are good for people, and good for the planet, is a prime example of our college's ethos of computing for the common good." 

Fran Berman joined the computer science faculty in 2021. She is dually appointed as a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and previously served as the Edward P. Hamilton Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Berman 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.” She was elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019 and to fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration in 2020.  

View additional information about Berman’s career and impact.