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White House Names Nation’s 1st Chief Data Scientist

DJ Patil says big data “has become a regular part of our daily lives.”

By University Alliance on June 08, 2015
Big Data Guru Named to White House Post

The man often credited with coining the term “data scientist” has been named as the federal government’s first big data guru.

DJ Patil, whose previous employers include Skype, LinkedIn, eBay, the U.S. Department of Defense and PayPal, will serve as Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist.

Patil will “help shape policies and practices to help the U.S. remain a leader in technology and innovation,” his new boss, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, said in a February 2015 post on The White House blog.

Smith said her deputy also will assist in hiring “the best minds in data science to join us in serving the public.”

Big data is seen as a growing priority by public- and private-sector organizations, particularly with the explosion of mobile technology in recent years and the dawn of the era of interconnectedness known as the “Internet of Things.”

A recent survey by the global research firm Gartner found that 73% of organizations are investing in big data technologies or plan to invest within the next two years.

“Big data can help address a wide range of business problems across many industries,” Gartner research director Lisa Kart said in a September 2014 statement.

Meanwhile, mobile data traffic worldwide is projected to jump by almost tenfold between 2014 and 2019, according to a February 2015 report by the IT firm Cisco.

“From crowd-sourced product reviews to real-time traffic alerts, ‘big data’ has become a regular part of our daily lives,” Patil wrote in a February post on The White House blog. He identified three areas of focus in his new role at the Office of Science and Technology Policy:

  • Precision medicine – harnessing the power of big data in order to deliver tailored healthcare services to individuals
  • Usable data products – presenting data in a form that goes beyond “raw datasets” and incorporates other sources of information
  • Responsible data science – ensuring that privacy safeguards are in place and that potential societal consequences are weighed

Regulators with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a set of recommendations aimed at protecting Americans’ privacy as the number of Internet-connected devices continues to rise.

Patil’s previous work has included using datasets to boost weather forecasting, and analyzing social networks to pinpoint developing threats facing the nation.

Category: 2015 Headlines