The Parasite Awards
Celebrating rigorous secondary data analysis

The "Parasites"

PSB Awards for rigorous secondary data analysis. A companion to the Research Symbiont Awards.

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 2016 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 the 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, phrased slightly differently:

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.

Eligibility & Application

How to apply for an award.

Application Process

We encourage readers to broadly share this call, and we strongly encourage members of groups that are underrepresented in scientific communities to apply for this award.

Applications for the 2022 Research Parasite Awards must be received by September 15, 2021 at 5PM HST (Hawaii Standard Time) at The award will be presented via a video livestream. We plan for this to occur during the first week of January as part of the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. An application requires:

  • An application letter describing how each selected paper meets the criteria for the award.
  • Junior Parasite (aka the sporozoite): a PDF of one paper published after peer review on which the application will be judged.
  • Sustained Parasitism (aka the merozoite): PDFs of three papers published after peer review 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 application 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 application letter.
  • At least a five-year period must have elapsed between the publication of the first manuscript and the final manuscript.

By submitting an application you agree that the decisions of the parasite award committee are final, and the committee is unable to provide feedback on applications that were not selected.

Prize & Supporters

Those who make this possible.


Recipients of both awards will receive a leather lamprey with a magnetic head. This lamprey can be attached to ferromagnetic surfaces. Previous award winners have attached them to lamps, to produce lamp-reys. The physical prizes are supported by an award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (GBMF 4552) to Casey Greene.

Each award recipient will receive a $1000 cash prize, due to support from GigaScience and GigaByte. We also expect to award a number of Honorable Mentions, which are accompanied by a $250 prize.

2022 Award Year Sponsors


GigaScience aims to revolutionize reproducibility of analyses, data dissemination, organization, understanding, and use through open access and open data publication of 'big data' studies across the life and biomedical sciences.

GigaScience Logo


GigaByte aims to promote the most rapid exchange of scientific information in a formal peer-reviewed publishing platform.

GigaScience Logo

GigaScience Press

GigaScience and its new sister journal GigaByte are data-centric journals in the life and biomedical sciences published by GigaScience Press. Helping to incentivise and support data parasites and symbionts, both journals have data curation and hosting support and credit the sharing of the associated Research Objects (raw and analysed data, code and workflows, etc) with the articles, are open, accessible, and follow best (FAIR) practices. GigaScience publishes cutting edge research involving large, complex datasets, biological data analyses, and software tools; GigaByte is designed to publish rapidly changing research in the form of short Data Release and Technical Release articles. These present non-complex data sets, continually updated software tools, and changing methods that are well-served by having embedded content that bring papers to life and allow readers to directly engage with the content. The editors are currently doing a call for papers for the launch of GigaByte.

Long-term Sustainability

Since the 2019 award year, The Research Parasite Award has been supported in part by an endowment. This endowment is housed at the University of Pennsylvania and provides modest prizes to the recipients. If you would like to contribute to this endowment, donations may be made here. The initial donors to this endowment include:

  • Jeff Stibel
  • Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Canon
  • Drs. Casey and Anna Greene

Administrative support is provided by University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine's Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics. If you would like to team up with us to celebrate secondary data analysis with a one-year contribution (e.g. via a travel award), please send an e-mail to Casey Greene.

Selection Committee

The committee has sole responsibility for determining the recipient of the parasite awards. As discussed in the conflict of interest rules, the committee and individual members are unable to comment on any unselected applications.

Julie Dunning Hotopp

Chair. Award Cycles 2019-2022.*

Rafael Irizarry

Award Cycles 2020-2023.*

Sam Volchenboum

Award Cycles 2020-2023.*

Jason Moore

Award Cycles 2022-2025.*

Jordi Paps

Award Cycles 2022-2023.

Kelley Harris

Award Cycles 2021-2022.

*Selection of new committee members: For the three four-year term positions (current members marked with a star), 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. No committee member may serve more than four consecutive years and no committee member may return to the committee until at least four award years have passed since the member previously served.

Former Members

  • Melissa Haendel (2018-2021 Award Years)
  • Casey Greene (Founding Member, 2017-2020 Award Years)
  • Marylyn Ritchie (Founding Member, 2017, 2018 Award Years)
  • Larry Hunter (Founding Member, 2017 Award Year)
  • Jack Gilbert (Founding Member, 2017 Award Year)
  • Lana Garmire (Founding Member, 2017-2019 Award Years)
  • Erick Turner (2018-2019 Award Years)

Award Recipients

Exemplars of research parasitism.

Ayush Raman

Ayush Raman

2020 Junior Parasite

Rafael Irizarry

Kelley Harris

2020 Sustained Parasitism

Claire Duvallet

Claire Duvallet

2019 Junior Parasite

Rafael Irizarry

Rafael Irizarry

2019 Sustained Parasitism

Honorable Mentions

Adam Palmer

Adam Palmer

2019 Junior Honorable Mention

Adam Palmer (Harvard University) analyzed clinical trials of cancer therapies and discovered that the benefit of many drug combinations is due to differences between patients in which single drug is most effective.

Marc Sze

Marc Sze

2019 Junior Honorable Mention

Marc Sze (University of Michigan) noted that in emerging fields, secondary analysis can help provide crucial direction on the most promising leads and steer us away from those that simply generate the most buzz. He reanalyzed microbiome data in one such area (obesity and the microbiota) to determine the extent to which reports exaggerated the true magnitude or potential of this factor.

Nick Brown

Nick Brown

2019 Senior Honorable Mention

Nick Brown (University of Groningen) used datasets from published articles to draw different conclusions from the original authors, sometimes with far-reaching consequences. Certain contributions revealed weaknesses in the science underlying a “smarter lunchrooms” program that was in use in nearly 30,000 schools.

Award and Conflict of Interest Rules

  1. PSB conference co-chairs do not serve as nominator or endorser for any application submitted for this award.
  2. Members of this award committee do not serve as a nominator for any application 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 application 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 application prior to their submittal. Members can answer general questions about what a application should include but may not pre-review or comment on draft applications.
  4. Members 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 and the committee as a whole do not provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates. If a member is asked for feedback, this policy should be cited.
  6. Members of this committee are not eligible to be nominated for the award during their time on the committee. Individuals in the research group of a committee member are also not eligible to be nominated for the award during that member’s time on the committee.
  7. 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 for 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.

In the event that a committee member has a relationship described in rule 7 with one or more nominees, s/he should disclose that relationship to the other committee members and describe the nature of the relationship(s). The other committee members should then decide (without the conflicted committee member) whether the conflict is adequately mitigated by disclosure. In the event that a majority of the other committee members believes the conflict is not adequately mitigated by disclosure, the following procedure should be followed: (1) The conflicted committee member may not participate in the discussion of the conflicted nominee; (2) If the non-conflicted committee members feel a conflicted nominee should be an awardee, then those committee members should send a written description of the conflict and the rationale for their decision to the PSB co-chairs; (3) if a majority of the PSB co-chairs believe the decision has been improperly biased by the conflict, the conflicted nominee cannot be the award winner, and the committee will be tasked with selecting a different awardee.