In a clear sign that big data is becoming mainstream, the White House recently announced the appointment of the nation’s first data scientist.

On February 18th, Dr. DJ Patil was named Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Data Policy and Chief Data Scientist at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

“President Obama has prioritized bringing top technical talent like DJ into the federal government to harness the power of technology and innovation to help government better serve the American people,” said Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

So, what is a “data scientist”?

Per the Wall Street Journal, it is a new term that did not exist a few years ago.  A growing number of companies are embracing data scientists to help draw business-enhancing insights from massive volumes of data.  It’s such a popular job position now that the federal government is following suit on this approach.

Furthemore, Patil is the perfect candidate for this position because he actually coined the term “data scientist” back in 2012.  He will essentially help shape innovation policies and practices and develop partnerships for best leveraging data to support mission goals and serve citizens.

He is no stranger to turning data into actionable intelligence. Patil helped NOAA to make major improvements in numerical weather forecasting. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of California, San Diego, and a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland College Park. Patil has also authored a number of books on data science.

According to Smith, one of his first assignments will be working on the Administration’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which aims to provide clinicians with new tools, knowledge, and therapies to select which treatments will work best for which patients, while protecting patient privacy.

Although we typically name “GovTransformers” for their past achievements, we are going to make an exception this week.  We are proud to announce that Patil is this week’s “GovTransformer,” and we look forward to seeing him bring data science to life for the federal government.