The role of the data scientist has been deemed the sexiest job of the 21st century, and the White House has just appointed its first one ever. The job goes to DJ Patil, who will be officially known as the Chief Data Scientist and Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy – or CDSaDCTODT for short.
Patil has an impressive history working for numerous top-tier Silicon Valley organizations, ranging from PayPal to Skype, eBay to LinkedIn, and including the venture capital corporation of Greylock Partners. He was personally recruited by President Obama to fill the newly created data scientist role.
The main aim of Patil’s new position is to explore ways big data can be applied to all areas of government, with a keen focus on using it to enhance healthcare initiatives. Patil will be working as part of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and he’ll report to US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
Why the New Position
Creating the position of data scientist aligns with the ongoing White House trend to improve IT with the help of technology executives from the private sector. Obama recently appointed past VMWare executive Tony Scott as the US chief information officer, in charge of enhancing the nation’s technology tools.
Additional recruitment is underway, with former White House Chief Technology Officer Todd Park targeting other Silicon Valley talent to join the team in Washington.
Why DJ Patil
In addition to his impressive employment history in the high-tech arena, Patil co-authored the 2012 article in the Harvard Business Review that pegged data scientist as the sexiest job of the century. He’s even been credited with coining the term “data science.”
Patil’s past 20 years have been spent finding ways organizations can leverage the power of big data in academia, with private corporations and in the public sector. A prime example comes from his work at the University of Maryland, where he improved weather forecasting practices through the use of open datasets. Another notable role was his brief stint at the Department of Defense, where he suggested ways to analyze social networks to pinpoint potential threats to the US.
His new job in Washington will involve advising on technology and policy issues, with the overall goal of ensuring the US makes the most of its big data investment. One task on his agenda is helping with the Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to assist clinicians with making treatment decisions based on new knowledge, therapies and tools while protecting patient confidentiality.
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