CU Boulder researchers win White House recognition

A team from the University of Colorado Boulder won recognition from The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Thursday for their research in the Arctic and collaboration with its Indigenous people.

Amid rapid climate and social changes, many Arctic residents are collecting and safeguarding data of critical importance to their communities, including observations of environmental change, Indigenous place names and oral histories and cultural knowledge of elders, according to a release.

The project led by CU Boulder researchers, called the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic, works directly with Indigenous partners to share support and data. ELOKA, established in 2007 to address a gap in data management and coordination, helps by developing online data applications, providing training in ethical data management and hosting gatherings.

Noor Johnson is the program lead and a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, a research institute at CU Boulder. Johnson said given the rapid pace of Arctic change, it’s critical to use open science approaches that respect Indigenous data sovereignty while supporting them in documenting and sharing their knowledge.

“Their deep knowledge of their homelands enrich environmental observing initiatives to more holistically understand and underscore the urgency of climate change,” Johnson said in an email. “The ELOKA collaborative is dedicated to applying open science principles that foster shared capacity and active involvement in data management so that Arctic communities have information they need to advance their goals and priorities. We are very grateful for this recognition from the White House, which highlights the valuable work of our community partners in documenting and sharing knowledge for both present and future generations.”

According to the release, ELOKA was chosen as a winner due to the use of open science and relationship building that has advanced understanding of Arctic sciences, place-based knowledge and supported the self-determination of Arctic Indigenous peoples. ELOKA uniquely supports Indigenous data sovereignty, sharing and use with community partners across the Arctic, including Alaska, Canada, Greenland and the Eurasian North.

ELOKA also hosts a database containing observations of sea ice, weather and wildlife collected by Indigenous experts in coastal communities in northern and western Alaska. The database provides an inventory of more than 8,600 observations spanning nearly 20 years.

The Year of Open Science Recognition Challenge held by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy engaged researchers, community scientists, educators, innovators and the broader public to highlight efforts to expand research access for the benefit of science and society.

“We can expand what’s possible with open, equitable, and collaborative science,” OSTP Assistant Director for Public Access and Research Policy Maryam Zaringhalam said in a statement. “As we highlight these champions of open science, OSTP hopes to inspire others to share their stories about how science and technology can open opportunities for every person. We’re grateful to everyone who has submitted their stories so far, and we look forward to engaging more with the entire community.”

ELOKA project leads with ties to CU Boulder include Johnson, Research Scientist Matthew Druckenmiller and Edda Mutter, the science director with the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council.

The White House selected five challenge project submissions as “Champions of Open Science” for their work to promote open science to tackle a unique problem, including CU Boulder’s ELOKA project. For more information, visit

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