PSB Awards for rigorous secondary data analysis (The “Parasites”)

The act of generating new hypotheses from existing data is a major component in the process of science. Dr. Albert Szent-Györgyi has been quoted as saying “discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen, and thinking what nobody has thought.” Recent advances in data sharing, combined with the expectation that publicly funded research will be shared, have led to projects that consist largely of secondary analysis of data. The practitioners of this craft may analyze or combine these data in ways that answer scientific questions that the initial investigators did not consider. In a recent editorial, the New England Journal of Medicine termed these people “research parasites.”

The Parasite awards, given annually, recognize outstanding contributions to the rigorous secondary analysis of data. This practice of secondary analysis plays a key role in scientific ecosystem: conclusions that persist through substantial reanalysis are expected to be more credible; and analyses that extract more knowledge from underutilized data make the practice of science more efficient.

Or, put slightly differently:2016-05-01

The Parasites currently consist of two awards: the first recognizes an outstanding contribution from a junior parasite (postdoctoral, graduate, or undergraduate trainee), and the second recognizes an individual for a sustained period of exemplary research parasitism.


For either award, submit an application by October 14, 2016 at 5PM HST (Hawaii Standard Time) to An application requires:

  • A nomination letter describing how each selected paper meets the criteria for the award. Self nominations are encouraged, and all nominees must be aware that they have been nominated.
  • Junior Parasite (aka the sporozoite): a PDF of one paper on which the application will be judged.
  • Sustained Parasitism (aka the meroszoite): PDFs of three papers on which the application will be judged.

The award winners will be recognized at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing each year, and listed on the PSB website, along with links to the winning papers.

Selection criteria (both awards) for the work in question:

  • The awardee must not have been involved the design of the experiments that generated the data.
  • The awardee published independently of the original investigators, and the original investigators are not authors of the secondary analyses but are appropriately credited in the manuscripts.
  • The awardee may have extended, replicated or disproved what the original investigators had posited.
  • The awardee has provided source code and intermediate or final results in a manner that enhances reproducibility.

Additional selection criteria for the Junior Parasite award:

  • The awardee must have published the work at the training stage of their career (postdoctoral, graduate, or undergraduate). If the awardee has assumed a position as an independent investigator she or he should not have been in that position for more than 2 years.
  • The award will be based on work described in a single manuscript (submitted alongside the nomination letter).

Additional selection criteria for the Sustained Parasitism award:

  • The awardee must be in an independent investigator position in academia, industry or public sector.
  • The awardee must be a last or corresponding author on the three manuscripts submitted alongside the nomination letter.
  • At least a five-year period must have elapsed between the publication of the first manuscript and the final manuscript.


 2016-05-01 (1)

Selection of new committee members: For the three four-year term positions, the award committee will have the right to nominate new members, and the PSB organizers will have the right to confirm selected nominees. For the two two-year terms positions, recipients of the Sustained Parasitism award will rotate on to the committee.


  1. PSB conference co-chairs do not serve as nominator or endorser for any nomination submitted for this award.
  2. Members of this award committee do not serve as a nominator for any nomination for this award. If you have nominated a candidate, inform the committee chair immediately so that one of two actions may be taken: (a) the nomination will be set aside for the year, or (b) you will step down from the committee for the year.
  3. Members of this committee should not be directly involved in nominations prior to their submittal. You can answer general questions about what a nomination should include, but you may not pre-review or comment on draft nominations.
  4. You must maintain confidentiality about the internal discussions of the committee.  Information about committee deliberations should not be shared with anyone outside the committee, nor should the winner be discussed until PSB has issued a formal statement.
  5. Members of this committee do not provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates. If a member is asked for feedback, this policy should be cited.
  6. Members of this committee must self-identify any relationships/affiliations that might be perceived as a source of potential bias, and inform the committee chair of the COIs before any candidates have been discussed.  Identify any candidates with whom you: have had close personal or working relationships within the past 5 years or the period covered by the award, whichever is longer; anyone for whom you were thesis advisor/advisee; anyone for whom you were a postdoctoral advisor/advisee; anyone form whom you were a faculty mentor/mentee; or any other case where your judgment could be affected.  Also identify any candidates from your current institution or one where you worked within the past 5 years.

When COIs are identified, the normal practice is for conflicted committee members to recuse themselves from discussions related to the corresponding nominations. In this sense, recusal means that the committee member will refrain from any commentary/input before or during the decision-making process, and will absent him/herself during committee discussions of the nomination. In the case of tie votes arising during a recusal, a PSB conference co-chair will cast the tiebreaking vote.

In any of the cases above, if you are to notify the committee chair but the committee chair has the conflict of interest, notification should instead be sent to the co-chairs of PSB. Potential conflicts involving the chair must be identified in advance and the chair should contact the PSB co-chairs immediately to determine whether the nomination might be deferred a year (in consultation with the nominator) or whether the chair should be replaced. For most potential situations involving a conflicted chair, it will be sufficient for a PSB conference co-chair to, in the case of ties, vote.

At any time where a PSB conference co-chair is brought in for discussions and voting, they will be expected to also identify potential conflicts, report them to the committee, and recuse themselves in accordance with the rules applied to committee members.





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