Winners of the Inaugural Data Hero Awards (COVID-19)

The votes have been tallied. The winners have been selected. The heroes are announced below.

meet the judges

Rebekah Jones – Florida scientist and whistleblower who organized the awards program and is funding the awards has a unique perspective on COVID-19 data access, transparency and advocacy. As the architect of Florida’s COVID-19 public data and surveillance systems, Jones was fired last May for refusing to manipulate data and put lives at risk for political purposes. Since that time, she has built her own data dashboard, started a co-venture to track cases in K-12 schools nationwide, has appeared on more than 100 news programs, and has become a fearless leader in America for refusing to allow politics to steer science. For her efforts in 2020-2021, she was named Whistleblower of the Year, Forbes’ first-ever Technology Person of the Year, Fortune’s 40 under 40, and one Elemental’s 50 Experts to Trust During a Pandemic.

Josh Fox Academy Award nominated and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker Josh Fox has been battling disinformation about environmental issues for more than a decade. His understanding of media and talent for communicating complex, scientific concepts provided invaluable insight during our judging process. Josh took on the oil and gas companies with his ground-breaking documentary Gasland (2010), becoming a target of smear campaigns for years, battling the fossil-fuel industry’s interests while sharing the stories of those most impacted by their policies in riveting, flame-filled fashion (literally).

Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding – As a specialist and a provocateur, Dr. Feigl-Ding has been tracking Coronavirus since January 2020, sounding the earliest alarms of what was on the way. While to some he may be a dividing figure (who isn’t with COVID-19 these days?), he’s been a leading voice both nationally and internationally, advocating for science communication, and data transparency and access. As a senior fellow at the Federation of American Sciences, Dr. Feigl-Ding is an epidemiologist and health economist who made data retweetable, who influenced policy changes, spoke out against the toxic culture pervasive throughout academia, and regularly dismantled anti-science conspiracy theories. He’s a powerhouse and celebrity expert because his hard work and dedication is clear through his work.

Guest Judges by Expertise/Subject Area:

Christian Hammond– Christian is a software developer and founder of Beanbag, Inc. in the San Francisco Bay Area. During COVID-19, Christian worked to build an information and data portal for his home county in California, compiling all available data into a single access point for the public. His expertise on the professional responsibilities of data reporting during COVID-19 made him an ideal judge for our panel.

A biostatistician and health statistics researcher with the state of Florida, Romer has worked in public health research for more than a decade, working on topics from clinical trials to mental health and suicide prevention. His expertise in public health and research made him a valued and trusted guest panel member for judging the final awards.


Special service awards

Some of our nominees didn’t “fit” into a category, or were so unique in their perspective and their efforts that we wanted to acknowledge their work outside of our main awards programs. We recognize the below service awards with the upmost respect for their work. All three will be receiving a $100 award and customized swag.

Andrew berens

The Public Service Award – Louisiana

For his commitment to data access and transparency while managing Louisiana’s COVID-19 data and information systems.

russell schwartz & katherine quirk

The Volunteer Service Award – Florida

For their dedication and commitment to getting Florida residents access to life-saving vaccines.


The covid-19 data hero award winners

Our winners will each receive a $1,000 award in addition to the swag sent out to all our finalists in the program. While we selected winners, all of our nominees and finalists have done amazing work during the last year to communicate and advocate for data access and transparency.


Philip Nelson

The Newcomers Cohort – South Carolina

When South Carolina failed to produce the data people needed, Philip stepped up to the plate, providing data directly to the public and helping them make sense of what was happening in their state. He has never missed an update, and is the most reliable source of information for his entire state – while finishing his undergraduate degree at the same time.

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Megan Messerly

The Press Cohort

We dare say no member of the press has successfully tackled disseminating COVID-19 data in such an accessible and transparent way than Megan Messerly of the Nevada Independent. Megan’s work reporting COVID-19 data should be an example of what to strive for to all data journalists.

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Olivier Drouin

The Professionals Cohort – Quebec, Canada

Quebec’s dad” added COVID-19 tracking for Canada’s schools to his already overly-stuffed schedule when the resources provided didn’t cut it. Today, he provides the primary data resource and website for tracking school cases in all of Canada.

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Dr. Theresa Chapple

The Specialists Cohort – Georgia

A scientist and community advocate from the ground up, Dr. Theresa Chapple has been an unimpeachable voice for data and science communication throughout the pandemic. She works with schools and with the public to help them understand risk and mitigation during the pandemic, and her work stands out among the best in the nation during COVID-19.

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Dr. Andrea Love & Dr. Jessica Steier

The Provocateurs Cohort – Pennsylvania & Florida

With their Unbiased Science Podcast, Dr. Love and Dr. Steier made data communication accessible and trendy. They’ve pushed buttons, challenged boundaries, and all the while did the research and work needed to help the scientific community and the public better understand the pandemic.

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Our COVID-19 Data Hero Award Runner-ups

Each runner-up below came incredibly close to being at the top, and to reward their hard efforts and the support they’ve gained over the last year for their work, each runner-up will receive a $250 award.


Our COVID-19 Data Hero Award Online voting winners

We simply could not ignore the massive amount of support for our finalists shown through the online voting period in March. In recognition of the well-earned public support each online voting winner has earned during the past year, each online voting winner will receive a $100 reward, in addition to any other awards they’re receiving as part of this program



Our Remaining finalists

All of our finalists who did not win the primary award, runner-up, or online voting will receive $100 and custom swag from the program. Every one of our finalists exemplified what it means to be a data hero during this crisis, and we expect great things from them in the future.

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