XSEDE Keynote: Democratizing Scientific Research

By Jan A. Zverina, San Diego Supercomputer Center

August 2, 2013

“As the number of Native American scientists slowly increases to help democratize scientific research for their respective communities, we need to continually train non-scientific researchers on how to work with Native people,” according to LeManuel “Lee” Bitsóí, a member of the Navajo Nation and Harvard University research associate.

“Native people are not anti-science; it’s that we want a pro-indigenous approach to the way science is conducted within our communities,” Dr. Bitsóí told attendees of XSEDE13, the annual conference of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) program held July 22-25 in San Diego.

“As Native people, we have always practiced science,” said Bitsóí, who also is the lead Native American scholar for an initiative focusing on young men of color sponsored by the College Board, and secretary for the board of directors for the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Science. “Only we don’t call it science. We just call it a part of life.”

“Like other underrepresented communities, Native people have developed their own diverse scientific knowledge base that includes mathematics, chemistry, and many biosciences typically found in the scientific research community at large,” said Bitsóí, whose focus is on genomics training and epigenetics in particular. But the Natives have passed much of this knowledge on through oral history – which has only recently been recognized as a legitimate source of data by the general scientific community – and this knowledge base also includes areas such as animal husbandry, ethnobotany, and ethnomedicine, as well as “healing” and “arts.”  

“In Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, Standing Rock Sioux scholar Vine Deloria Jr. argued that non-Native researchers and academics were mainly interested in their own research goals and advancing their careers, and essentially were not concerned about the real challenges that American Indians/Alaska Natives face,” said Bitsóí. “Dr. Frank Dukepoo (Hopi/Laguna) also questioned the bilagáana, or Western, approach to research, especially scientific research in American Indian/Alaska Native communities. Dr. Dukepoo always deferred to his Native culture and upbringing whenever he challenged the status quo.”

Pro-Indigenous Approach

“This type of questioning is what Dr. Kim Tallbear (Sisseton Wahpeton), assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, refers to as the first step in democratizing scientific research,” noted Bitsóí. “As Native scientists and researchers, we have made inroads in many disciplines to advance our understanding of how to optimize scientific discoveries for our people.”

The path to a more inclusive science community has not been without challenges, a major one being the lack of effective communication between Natives and non-Natives at the researcher level, as well as society at large. That in turn sometimes discourages Native Americans from pursuing a career in science, instead fostering a widespread reluctance to engage with researchers outside their communities.

During 2007 and 2008 only 522 American Indians and Alaska Natives attained a degree in the biosciences out of a total of almost 78,000 students, said Bitsóí, showing a chart from the U.S. Department of Education. In that same period, 2,203 non-residents attained a degree, according to the same chart.

“What this shows is that higher education in the U.S. is really doing a much better job in educating foreign students than it is in graduating our own people,” said Bitsóí.

Despite science always being a part of Native knowledge bases, there is a real need to train non-Native research scientists on how to work with indigenous communities. That includes learning how to consult with local Native communities and their leaders, better understanding the practices and traditions of those communities, and knowing the complexities of issues such as consent while respecting privacy concerns.

“Implicit is a new definition of rigorous scientific research, one that includes both community development and scientific progress as legitimate objectives of genomic research,” said Bitsóí, who acknowledged his mentors and advisors over the years, including Professors William Gelbart and George Church at Harvard University, and Professors Bette Jacobs and Jeff Collmann at Georgetown University.

Epigenetics and Intergenerational Trauma

Bitsóí, who has devoted his career to enhancing opportunities for underrepresented minority students to become scientists, science educators, and scientifically-informed community members, said his role has been to get those students excited about genomics and connect them with training programs at genome centers around the country.

“The study of genomics is more than discovering similarities between living organisms,” he said, adding that genomic investigations also are responsible for disease prevention and even cures. “Research in this area could lead to the development of new drugs to treat diseases like diabetes, better methods of crop production, better range management of land, and possibly discovering new and innovative ways to sustain the earth.”

In addition to advocacy work, Bitsóí has recently begun to explore intergenerational trauma, or the exposure of an earlier generation to a traumatic event that continues to affect subsequent generations.  As a key area of interest for Bitsóí, he plans to partner with other Native researchers to launch a research project studying the relationships between intergenerational/historical trauma and the relatively new field epigenetics.

“Epigenetics has already demonstrated that certain exposures, especially during periods of developmental vulnerability, can cause long-term harms to exposed individuals and sometimes their progeny,” he said. “Epigenetics invalidates the assumption that nature and nurture operate as independent forces in influencing human development and disease.”

Bitsóí is particularly interested in the numerous legal and ethical issues being raised by epigenetics, notably those regarding individual and societal responsibilities to prevent hazardous exposures, monitor health status, and provide care. 

“Epigenetics…adds a multi-generational dimension to environmentally-caused adverse health effects,” he said. “It also highlights the effects of inequality in living and working conditions, as well as a range of disparities in access to health care and other societal opportunities.

In closing, Bitsóí said that intergenerational or historical trauma has been a controversial topic for non-Native people, since there is an accepted notion that what happened in the past is in the past. However, scientific research in epigenetics has begun to demonstrate that intergenerational trauma is real and has an impact on present-day populations – and what we experience will affect future generations.

Citing the BBC program called The Ghost in Your Genes, he said that epigenetics is based on a simple but contentious idea: that genes have a memory, and that the lives and environments of our grandparents can directly affect us decades later, despite us never experiencing these things ourselves, and the notion that what we do and how we lives could in turn affect our grandchildren.

“Native healers, medicine people, and elders have always known this, and it is common knowledge in Native oral traditions,” said Bitsóí.  To undergird this statement, he cited the work of Bryan Brayboy (Lumbee) in Tribal Critical Race theory: Stories are not separate from theory; they make up theory and are, therefore, real and legitimate sources of data and ways of being.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “pre-exascale” award), parsed out additional information ab Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid whoops and hollers from the crowd, Thomas Sterling presented t Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out plans to push deeper into climate science and develop more gran Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale companies and their embrace of AI and deep learning – tha Read more…

By Doug Black

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

Creating a Roadmap for HPC Innovation at ISC 2017

In an era where technological advancements are driving innovation to every sector, and powering major economic and scientific breakthroughs, high performance computing (HPC) is crucial to tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Read more…

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network designed to emulate and compete with the human brain. In thi Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big data and artificial intelligence software to its top-of-the-l Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “global” launch event in Austin TX. In many ways it was a fu Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it, analysts and journalists want to report on it. Deep learni Read more…

By Doug Black

How ‘Knights Mill’ Gets Its Deep Learning Flops

June 22, 2017

Intel, the subject of much speculation regarding the delayed, rewritten or potentially canceled “Aurora” contract (the Argonne Lab part of the CORAL “ Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Tsinghua Crowned Eight-Time Student Cluster Champions at ISC

June 22, 2017

Always a hard-fought competition, the Student Cluster Competition awards were announced Wednesday, June 21, at the ISC High Performance Conference 2017. Amid wh Read more…

By Kim McMahon

GPUs, Power9, Figure Prominently in IBM’s Bet on Weather Forecasting

June 22, 2017

IBM jumped into the weather forecasting business roughly a year and a half ago by purchasing The Weather Company. This week at ISC 2017, Big Blue rolled out pla Read more…

By John Russell

Intersect 360 at ISC: HPC Industry at $44B by 2021

June 22, 2017

The care, feeding and sustained growth of the HPC industry increasingly is in the hands of the commercial market sector – in particular, it’s the hyperscale Read more…

By Doug Black

At ISC – Goh on Go: Humans Can’t Scale, the Data-Centric Learning Machine Can

June 22, 2017

I've seen the future this week at ISC, it’s on display in prototype or Powerpoint form, and it’s going to dumbfound you. The future is an AI neural network Read more…

By Doug Black

Cray Brings AI and HPC Together on Flagship Supers

June 20, 2017

Cray took one more step toward the convergence of big data and high performance computing (HPC) today when it announced that it’s adding a full suite of big d Read more…

By Alex Woodie

AMD Charges Back into the Datacenter and HPC Workflows with EPYC Processor

June 20, 2017

AMD is charging back into the enterprise datacenter and select HPC workflows with its new EPYC 7000 processor line, code-named Naples, announced today at a “g Read more…

By John Russell

Hyperion: Deep Learning, AI Helping Drive Healthy HPC Industry Growth

June 20, 2017

To be at the ISC conference in Frankfurt this week is to experience deep immersion in deep learning. Users want to learn about it, vendors want to talk about it Read more…

By Doug Black

Quantum Bits: D-Wave and VW; Google Quantum Lab; IBM Expands Access

March 21, 2017

For a technology that’s usually characterized as far off and in a distant galaxy, quantum computing has been steadily picking up steam. Just how close real-wo Read more…

By John Russell

Trump Budget Targets NIH, DOE, and EPA; No Mention of NSF

March 16, 2017

President Trump’s proposed U.S. fiscal 2018 budget issued today sharply cuts science spending while bolstering military spending as he promised during the cam Read more…

By John Russell

HPC Compiler Company PathScale Seeks Life Raft

March 23, 2017

HPCwire has learned that HPC compiler company PathScale has fallen on difficult times and is asking the community for help or actively seeking a buyer for its a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Pulls Back the Covers on Its First Machine Learning Chip

April 6, 2017

This week Google released a report detailing the design and performance characteristics of the Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), its custom ASIC for the inference Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CPU-based Visualization Positions for Exascale Supercomputing

March 16, 2017

In this contributed perspective piece, Intel’s Jim Jeffers makes the case that CPU-based visualization is now widely adopted and as such is no longer a contrarian view, but is rather an exascale requirement. Read more…

By Jim Jeffers, Principal Engineer and Engineering Leader, Intel

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia’s Mammoth Volta GPU Aims High for AI, HPC

May 10, 2017

At Nvidia's GPU Technology Conference (GTC17) in San Jose, Calif., this morning, CEO Jensen Huang announced the company's much-anticipated Volta architecture a Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Facebook Open Sources Caffe2; Nvidia, Intel Rush to Optimize

April 18, 2017

From its F8 developer conference in San Jose, Calif., today, Facebook announced Caffe2, a new open-source, cross-platform framework for deep learning. Caffe2 is the successor to Caffe, the deep learning framework developed by Berkeley AI Research and community contributors. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Leading Solution Providers

MIT Mathematician Spins Up 220,000-Core Google Compute Cluster

April 21, 2017

On Thursday, Google announced that MIT math professor and computational number theorist Andrew V. Sutherland had set a record for the largest Google Compute Engine (GCE) job. Sutherland ran the massive mathematics workload on 220,000 GCE cores using preemptible virtual machine instances. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Google Debuts TPU v2 and will Add to Google Cloud

May 25, 2017

Not long after stirring attention in the deep learning/AI community by revealing the details of its Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), Google last week announced the Read more…

By John Russell

US Supercomputing Leaders Tackle the China Question

March 15, 2017

Joint DOE-NSA report responds to the increased global pressures impacting the competitiveness of U.S. supercomputing. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Groq This: New AI Chips to Give GPUs a Run for Deep Learning Money

April 24, 2017

CPUs and GPUs, move over. Thanks to recent revelations surrounding Google’s new Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), the computing world appears to be on the cusp of Read more…

By Alex Woodie

Russian Researchers Claim First Quantum-Safe Blockchain

May 25, 2017

The Russian Quantum Center today announced it has overcome the threat of quantum cryptography by creating the first quantum-safe blockchain, securing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, along with classified government communications and other sensitive digital transfers. Read more…

By Doug Black

DOE Supercomputer Achieves Record 45-Qubit Quantum Simulation

April 13, 2017

In order to simulate larger and larger quantum systems and usher in an age of “quantum supremacy,” researchers are stretching the limits of today’s most advanced supercomputers. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Messina Update: The US Path to Exascale in 16 Slides

April 26, 2017

Paul Messina, director of the U.S. Exascale Computing Project, provided a wide-ranging review of ECP’s evolving plans last week at the HPC User Forum. Read more…

By John Russell

Knights Landing Processor with Omni-Path Makes Cloud Debut

April 18, 2017

HPC cloud specialist Rescale is partnering with Intel and HPC resource provider R Systems to offer first-ever cloud access to Xeon Phi "Knights Landing" processors. The infrastructure is based on the 68-core Intel Knights Landing processor with integrated Omni-Path fabric (the 7250F Xeon Phi). Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This