Dr Joe Miller named new GBIF Executive Secretary

Evolutionary researcher and administrator to take over in Copenhagen on 15 March

The GBIF Governing Board has approved the appointment of Dr Joe Miller as the network’s next Executive Secretary. A researcher who has spent the majority of his career at the Australian National Herbarium after earning his PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Miller joins GBIF after a five-year tenure at the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

“Dr Joe Miller joins GBIF at a crucial time in our journey,” said Tanya Abrahamse, founding CEO of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and current chair of the GBIF Governing Board. “GBIF is now seen as a leading player in the bioinformatics space, one expected to co-ordinate with a range of national and international entities to build a unifying platform for greater efficient and effective use of biodiversity data.

“Our investments in establishing a robust architecture, in linking scientists with technologists, and in bringing countries together to engage on this important initiative is showing returns,” said Abrahamse. “We enter the next phase of the GBIF journey well equipped.”

“With more than a billion occurrence records and thousands of partners, GBIF has a proven record of leading the aggregation of biodiversity data,” said Miller. “I am excited to work with international partners to lead GBIF into the next era of data integration to make more and better open data available to researchers and planners.”

As a researcher, Miller has studied the evolution, biogeography and systematics of the Australian flora, with a particular focus on the plant genus Acacia. For the past three years, he has led NSF’s international science diplomacy efforts in biology.

Miller’s current research focus is in the field of spatial phylogenetics, integrating GBIF species occurrence data with phylogenies that describe the evolutionary relationships between organisms. This research provides quantifiable and comparable data on diversity and endemism with direct applications to conservation planning. “For researchers, GBIF-mediated data serves as the foundation of current biogeographic research,” he said, “allowing rich, comprehensive studies that were not previously possible.”

In 2013, Miller left Australia to join NSF, helping to develop programming for research funding for U.S. researchers in systematics and biodiversity science. While leading NSF’s international science diplomacy in biology since 2016, he has focused on developing opportunities for increased international science collaboration for U.S. researchers and their international partners.

Miller will join the 26 staff of the GBIF Secretariat in Copenhagen on 15 March, where he will have overall responsibility for the development and implementation of GBIF’s strategic plans, the operation of its infrastructure, the condition of its international network and its financial stability.

Miller will take over from Donald Hobern, who is stepping down after seven years as Executive Secretary and more than 12 years at the GBIF Secretariat, including an initial term as programme officer for data access and database interoperability. “I am very proud to have been able to contribute to GBIF’s development,” said Hobern. “GBIF is not only an important international tool for understanding the natural world, but an incredible and thriving network of skilled and committed individuals.”

“Much of GBIF’s success has come under the leadership of outgoing Executive Secretary Donald Hobern,” said Abrahamse. “Donald showed great innovation and relentless hard work while building a great team of people at the GBIF Secretariat. For this we want to thank him and wish him all the best for the future.”

“At the heart of it all is the Secretariat and its amazing and talented team. I am fully confident that they will continue and expand GBIF’s relevance under Miller’s leadership,” said Hobern. “I wish Joe every success as he takes up the role.”

Abrahamse concluded, “On behalf of the Governing Board, I would like to welcome Joe to GBIF and extend our support and assistance in this challenging but exciting role.”