Researcher wins inaugural NHGRI award for DEIA Innovation in the Genomics Workforce

Headshot of Ann Mc Cartney
Ann Mc Cartney.
Ann Mc Cartney, a research scientist at the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, has always wanted to be part of building a better world. As career led her to becoming a genomicist, she has focused this passion into a commitment to equity in scientific research, particularly in advancing genomic data sharing and management and responsible research practices. 

Now, that commitment has been recognized as she received the National Human Genome Research Institute’s (NHGRI) inaugural Staff Award for DEIA Innovation in the Genomics Workforce. 

“The notion of reconstructing and reorienting the scientific enterprise toward a more just, equitable, and inclusive future can be uncomfortable and daunting, but it’s also exciting,” Mc Cartney said. “I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to play a very small part in reimagining and creating this future for genomics research – one where all views are voiced and recognized as co-equal, and where diverse perspectives are viewed as a resource and not an obstacle.”

Mc Cartney studied at Dublin City University in Ireland, participated in the Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Programme to get her Ph.D., and worked as a postdoctoral scholar in Aotearoa, New Zealand, where she created bioinformatics pipelines to make reference genomes for endemic and endangered species. She was inspired by the need to create genomics tools that respected Māori practices, protocols, and knowledge systems. She left this experience motivated to address the challenge of operationalizing Indigenous data governance practices in existing data infrastructures.

When Mc Cartney joined the NHGRI’s Genome Informatics section as a visiting fellow, she seized the opportunity to apply what she learned during her time in Aotearoa to other ongoing projects, where similar issues could be found for other communities underrepresented in science. As the director of the European Reference Genome Atlas pilot project, she was tasked with building an entire distributed genomics infrastructure that could scale to include researchers across Europe. She focused on developing equitable data sharing policies within this context, which led her to be recognized as a leader in this space. 

She was then elected co-chair of the Earth BioGenome Project’s Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Committee, where she developed policy and hosted conference workshops to support researchers globally to embed the JEDI principles across the full scope of Earth BioGenome partner projects. She led an Indigenous data sovereignty working group to ensure that Indigenous voices were recognized and heard in the data sharing and management policy. 

Mc Cartney is also a co-organizer of IndigiData, an annual workshop focused on introducing undergraduate and graduate students to centering Indigenous cultures and data sovereignty in genomics data science research. 

Now at UCSC, she is still working the European Reference Genome Atlas and Earth BioGenome Project, while also a scientist with Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Engineering Karen Miga’s group, collaborating on both the Telomere-to-Telomere Consortium (T2T) and Human Pangenome Research Consortium (HRPC) projects. She continues to be focused on the fair management of data in genomics through her various projects.