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Data shines at the Sammies

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The Partnership for Public Service's Samuel J. Heyman Service to America awards recognize individuals doing outstanding work in all corners of government, but people working with federal data stole the show at the 2014 "Sammies" presentation held Sept. 22 in Washington, D.C.

The Citizen Services Medal went to Michael Byrne, former geographic information officer at the Federal Communications Commission, who took home the honor for his work with FCC data, especially his signature accomplishment of creating the National Broadband Map.

"Michael Byrne literally put the FCC on the map," David Bray, the FCC's chief information officer, told the Partnership. "He demonstrated that you could produce maps or geospatial visualizations on critical policy issues and provide information that was not publicly available or easily accessible to the public or even to people inside the FCC itself."

Byrne, who recently left the FCC to join Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in a similar role, also mapped the location of federal aid that has been awarded to bring broadband availability to schools and health care providers in rural and urban areas.

"My job has been to take this data and information that is really complicated and make a picture out if it so that it is easy to digest," Byrne said in material released by the PPS. "These maps are a way to communicate what we are doing as an agency and help better inform policymakers and the public."

Another data whiz took home one of the top honors of the evening -- the Call to Service medal.

Sara Meyers, director of the Sandy Program Management Office at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was recognized for her work creating a "sophisticated" data analysis system to evaluate performance of federal housing programs, called HUDStat.

HUDStat data has been used to help find housing for homeless veterans by tracking the progress of state and local agencies. According to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, there are 43 percent fewer veterans living on the street since HUDStat launched in 2010.

"HUD officials said the department has always collected a lot of data but has not always been able to use it in an effective manner," the Partnership said. "Meyers was able to turn numbers on a page into information that is understandable and used to achieve greater results."

She also played a large role in creating processes to track $50 billion in Hurricane Sandy disaster relief money in 2012 and $13.6 billion in HUD economic stimulus funding in 2009.

"By providing a relentless focus on data, people really do start paying attention," Meyers said upon accepting her award.

Other award recipients were:

Federal Employee of the Year
Rana Hajjeh and the Hib Initiative Team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received the award for their work in persuading 60 countries to use and distribute a vaccine to fight pneumonia and bacterial meningitis, expected to save the lives of 7 million children by 2020.

Career Achievement Medal
Edwin Kneedler received this honor for his work at the Justice Department as deputy solicitor general -- he has argued 125 cases and helped shape the government's legal position on hundreds more before the Supreme Court.

Homeland Security and Law Medal
The Miami HEAT (Healthcare Fraud Enforcement Action Teams) took home this award for work on health care fraud in Florida resulting in nearly 700 convictions and hundreds of millions of dollars recovered.

Management Excellence Medal
Alan Lindenmoyer, program manager for the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program at NASA, was recognized for finding new ways for NASA to partner with the private sector to reduce space travel costs.

National Security and International Affairs Medal
Benjamin Tran and Sean Young, electronics engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, received the award for their work in creating a new aerial sensor system to detect and destroy improvised explosive devices.

Science and Environment Medal
William Bauman and Ann Spungen were recognized for work improving the quality of life and health care for paralyzed and veterans. This duo comes from the National Center of Excellence for the Medical Consequences of Spinal Cord Injury in the Bronx.

Posted by Colby Hochmuth on Sep 23, 2014 at 9:24 AM


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