Earlier this week, the Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, an independent Federal government agency I’ve had the pleasure of working with for many years, selected James J. Thomas, Laboratory Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), as this year’s recipient of the $25,000 Homeland Security Award for his pioneering leadership in the new science research field of visual analytics. The Homeland Security Award is sponsored by AgustaWestland North America, a Foundation partner since 2006.
According to PNNL, “Visual analytics technologies facilitate drawing actionable information from staggering amounts of complex data to thwart terrorist acts, identify vulnerabilities, and prepare for and respond to natural disasters. This technology fundamentally changes how humans interact, analyze, and report and act on information from local law enforcement, local and national health organizations, and national and international intelligence agencies.”
In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate created the National Visualization and Analytic Center with the mission to “prevent, prepare for, protect from, and respond to threats of any kind,” and Thomas was tapped to lead the new Center.
“The Department of Homeland Security has designated the month of October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, so it is fitting that the Christopher Columbus Foundation and AgustaWestland are honoring Jim Thomas, referred to by colleagues as the “father of visual analytics,” said Kimberly Owens, Chair of the Foundation. “Jim has had the rare opportunity to be the leader in developing the new science field of visual analytics. He has been instrumental in crafting collaborative agreements between the U.S., Canada and Germany, and recently the European Union Commissions, United Kingdom and others joined to address the problems of homeland security. Jim has also inspired degree and certificate programs so future generations will carry on the work he has begun,” said Owens.
“This award is unique and very special in that it represents recognition of the knowledge workers–intelligence to law enforcement–and the technologies enabling them to protect our freedoms, and allowing us to enjoy our way of life through homeland security,” said Thomas. “I want to thank the thousands from government, academia and industry nationally and internationally who have joined me in this cause to develop visual analytics technologies resulting in this award.”