4 Ways DJ Patil Will Push the Frontiers of Data Science

As the nation's leader on data science, Patil explained in an article addressed to the American people what he will do and what they can expect from him.

by / February 20, 2015
DJ Patil has joined the White House as its chief data scientist in residence. Flickr/ Kmeron
DJ Patil has joined the White House as its chief data scientist in residence.Flickr/ Kmeron

DJ Patil -- now the federal deputy chief technology officer and the White House’s first chief data scientist -- is credited with coining the term “data scientist.” And now that he’s been plucked from the private sector to lead the nation’s charge in the field of data science, he wants people want to know exactly what that will entail.  

Big data is integrated with human life, by virtue of things like crowdsourced product reviews and real-time traffic alerts, Patil wrote in a Feb. 20 article on Medium.com, and big data’s influence will only grow. The main beneficiaries of big data, he wrote – social media, search and e-commerce – will soon be joined by others, like smarter health-care delivery, individualized education and the Internet of Things. 

In addition to recapping some of the Obama administration’s open data efforts, like the signing of Executive Order 13642, which aims to make “open and machine-readable” the new default for government information, Patil also made a call to action: “It is essential that we work together to push the frontiers of data science.”

Patil said he will lead that push, and highlighed four activties he will focus on:

  1. “providing vision” on how to maximize social return on federal data;
  2. creating nationwide data policies that enable shared services and innovative practices to advance leadership;
  3. working with agencies to establish best practices and ensure database sustainability; and
  4. recruiting and retaining the best data scientists to work in the realms of government, academia and industry.

He also wrote of plans to expand on several specific initiatives, including precision medicine, data accessibility and encouraging “responsible data science.”

The president first announced the launch of the nation’s $215 million investment in precision medicine in his 2015 State of the Union address. The initiative will pit organizations public and private against the challenge of creating new models of medicine that tailor treatment to the specific lifestyle and genetics of a patient.

"Medical and genomic data provides an incredible opportunity to transition from a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to health care toward a truly personalized system," Patil wrote, "one that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, environments and lifestyles in order to optimally prevent and treat disease."