A Data Science Central Community
It’s finally official: The White House has named DJ Patil its first ever Chief Data Scientist and Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy.
Yes, that’s a mouthful. Even as an acronym, Patil’s new title is ten letters long: CDSaDCTODT. But the gist is that Patil—who has worked inside several big-name Silicon Valley operations, including LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Skype, and venture capital firm Greylock Partners—will now act as an evangelist for new applications of big data across all areas of government, with a particular focus on healthcare.
President Obama recruited him personally, and Patil will work in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, reporting to US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith.
He joins a growing number of technology executives defecting to Washington to apply their tech smarts to government. Earlier this month, Obama appointed former VMWare executive Tony Scott as the country’s chief information officer, responsible for modernizing and improving the country’s tech tools. And former US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park is leading a Silicon Valley-based effort to recruit top talent to help the federal government to overhaul its IT.
There is arguably no one better suited to help the country better embrace the relatively new discipline of data science than Patil. He is often credited with coining the term. In 2012, he co-authored the Harvard Business Review article that called out “data scientist” as the sexiest job of the 21st century. At the time, he was the data-scientist-in-residence at Greylock Partners, where he shared with me his life’s mantra: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t fix it.”
Over the course of two decades of work in the private and public sectors and in academia, Patil has pioneered new ways for institutions to benefit from data. As a doctoral student and faculty member at the University of Maryland, Patil used open datasets to improve weather forecasting. He worked briefly for the Department of Defense, advising on efforts to use social network analysis, for example, to anticipate emerging threats to the United States. Most recently, he was the vice president of product at enterprise software company RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce last July.
Patil is moving his family to Washington where he’ll play a role in helping the United States government maximize its investments in big data and advise on policy issues and technology practices. And like his tech peers, he’ll be recruiting others to the cause. Patil will also be devoting time to the Administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which focuses on giving clinicians new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients, while protecting patient privacy.
Patil will have more details on his new role tomorrow when he speaks at the Lollapalooza of big data conferences, the Strata +Hadoop World event put on by O’Reilly Media and Cloudera, in San Jose.