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White House Hires Chief Data Scientist, New CIO

Senior executives from Salesforce subsidiary and VMware join the Obama administration.

Big data is a big deal for the Obama administration, which said Thursday it has hired one of Silicon Valley's top data scientists.

DJ Patil, formerly of LinkedIn and RelateIQ, a subsidiary of Salesforce, now serves as chief data scientist in residence for the White House. He'll focus on health-care data, said John Podesta, counselor to the president, during a Feb. 5 press call about the administration’s recent big data efforts.

Patil's hiring was announced alongside the release of Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, a White House progress report on big data and privacy in the federal government. Patil is often credited with coining the term "data scientist" -- in 2012, he co-authored a Harvard Business Review article in which he called data scientist the sexiest job of the 21st century. The article, as Gigaom reported, helped "spark a hiring frenzy of people with an understanding of data analysis, systems and business concerns."

Patil, who will work alongside federal CTO Megan Smith, wasn't the only high-profile technology appointment announced by the White House this week. The president named VMware executive Tony Scott as the next federal CIO on Feb. 5. Scott, VMware's senior vice president and CIO, replaces Steve VanRoekel, who stepped down in September 2014 to join the U.S. Agency for International Development as its chief innovation officer.

Scott, who also will serve as administrator of Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology, has more than 35 years of global leadership and management experience. According to the White House blog, he will lead the administration’s Smarter IT Delivery Agenda and drive core objectives of maximizing the value of federal IT investments, delivering world-class digital services, and protecting federal IT assets and information.