Recognizing Plant Direct author Joanna Friesner

Joanna Friesner, first author of Broadening the impact of plant science through innovative, integrative and inclusive outreach

Current Position: Executive Director, North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (NAASC)

Education: PhD in Genetics, University of California, Davis

Non-scientific Interests: Exercising; advocating for social & racial justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion; drinking coffee; manatees; vegetarianism; sarcasm & self-made jokes of dubious quality

Brief bio: I completed a PhD in Genetics at UC Davis, USA, where I conducted early research into mechanisms of DNA double-strand break repair in Arabidopsis thaliana. Following this (2006) I began supporting the Arabidopsis community first as the Coordinator of the Multinational Arabidopsis Steering Committee (MASC), and then as the Executive Director of the North American Arabidopsis Steering Committee (NAASC), a non-profit charity registered in the US. Since 2006, I have led and supported various community activities via my support of the elected members of NAASC including serving as lead organizer for seven International Conferences on Arabidopsis Research (ICAR), and developing and implementing numerous NAASC activities (e.g., the International Arabidopsis Informatics Consortium, workshops, seminars, publications.) Supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the plant sciences has long been a key NAASC objective, with increased focus in the last 8 years, particularly due to support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF*) via the award “Research Coordination Network: Arabidopsis Research and Training for the 21st Century (ART-21)”.  NAASC has enabled participation in ICARs and other activities by about 100 members of under-represented groups in US STEM and 400+ early career researchers; organized more than a dozen professional and career development workshops, and led the writing of several publications, including this most recent guide on broadening impacts of plant science. Several years ago, I co-founded (with NAASC members Jennifer Nemhauser and Liz Haswell) the DiversifyPlantSci database ( to highlight diversity in the plant sciences community and to further increase diversity and inclusion. Currently, I am engaged as lead organizer of the first online ICAR (ICAR 2021-Virtual), postponed from 2020-Seattle due to Covid-19, and developing plans for new activities to support the Arabidopsis community. A novel component I’m especially excited about is proposed development of an Allies program to engage non-minoritized plant scientists in learning about historical and current cultural and social inequities (e.g., institutional and structural), and developing plans for action to enable more equitable communities and institutions. I also am collaborating with additional plant science groups to develop DEI initiatives. *Some work mentioned was funded by the National Science Foundation via Award #1518280. Any opinions, findings, & conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the participants & do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.