Position of Chief Data Scientist in the United States still vacant. Why should Biden take notice?
In 2015, Barack Obama’s government elected DJ Patil as its government’s chief data scientist. It was the first time that a role like this had been assigned to the US government. He held this post until 2017, before Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States. Between 2017 and 2021 (so far), the data manager’s office has been vacant.
Given the growing role of AI, data science, and machine learning, which are now more deeply penetrated into the day-to-day lives of humans, should Joe Biden, the current US President, consider doing so? to fill ?
Responsibilities of the role of the Chief Data Scientist
The standard expectations of a CDS in the US government are to assist and guide in the development of policies and practices to maintain the country’s position as a leader in technology and innovation; foster partnerships that help maximize the nation’s return on investment in data; and recruit and retain top data science talent to join the team. CDS works closely with the Chief Information Officer and the US Digital Service, among others.
The Obama-led government has taken several initiatives in the area of data science and AI. This included making more than 138,000 datasets publicly available to foster a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship. Several steps have been taken to secure Americans’ personal data and expand the ability to review large and complex data sets.
Patil, who first coined the term ‘data scientist’, spoke earlier about his role, saying he is responsible for leveraging data in a timely manner to enable transparency, security and drive innovation. . He added: “Given the importance this administration (Obama) has placed on data, as well as the momentum that has been created, now is a unique time to establish a data legacy supporting the public good. .
In an interview, Patil said his role requires him to achieve four main goals:
- Provide maximum social return on federal data.
- Create nationwide data policies that enable shared services and forward-looking practices to advance the country’s leadership
- Establish best practices for data management and ensure the sustainability of databases
- Recruit and retain the best minds in data science for the public service
As CDS, Patil undertook many tasks. One of the most important projects he has worked on has been spearheading precision medicine, a form of healing that uses DNA to establish a personalized approach to treatment. It is a long-term research project that is still under construction. Other health initiatives announced include Cancer Moonshot, patient access to their data, and building a cybersecurity and health ecosystem. He also encouraged the use of police and criminal justice data.
Patil was also instrumental in creating the Data Cabinet and leadership groups associated with national security. This step ultimately led to the inclusion of data scientists as a career path in the public service. He helped Silicon Valley and the Pentagon come together to create the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) or DIUx.
“Literally, data can save lives,” Patil said in an interview.
Biden Data and Government
Biden is unaware of the potential of the data. For his own presidential campaign, his team invested in data analytics and data understanding. The Biden team had enlisted the help of Civis Analytics, supported by Eric Schmidt (former chairman of Google). It’s a data science software and consulting company that has helped Biden connect with young voters and small donors.
Interestingly, Biden recently announced members of the President’s Science and Technology Advisory Board. Among these newly elected members, some members are experts in artificial intelligence and data science; for example, William Dally, who is the chief scientist and senior vice president of research at NVIDIA and invented hardware architectures that power several modern supercomputers and artificial intelligence tools; Eric Horvitz, principal researcher in AI; Saul Perlmutter, astrophysicist and cosmologist, who is also director of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California.
Credit: The White House
Additionally, as the world slowly emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new set of challenges await. Data science and artificial intelligence have a crucial role to play. There should be tools and analytical mechanisms to oversee return to work / tools, administer vaccines to the general population, and research disease to prevent future flares. Biden also said the focus should be on collecting accurate data on every facet of the pandemic. Expanded and accessible data would help deal with the crisis effectively, Biden added.
Additionally, as soon as Biden took office, he passed an executive order to pursue a comprehensive approach to ensure fairness among all, including historically marginalized and under-represented communities. To this end, the decree dedicated a section to the establishment of a task force to identify weaknesses in federal data collection policies and programs and recommend strategies to address these shortcomings.
These cases prove that data could become an integral part of policy making and governance under Biden’s administration. The only natural step is to reactivate the CDS office and appoint the next science officer.
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