The White House has named Dhanurjay 'DJ' Patil as its first chief data scientist to help shape policies and practices to help the US remain a leader in technology and innovation.
In a memo to the American people Thursday, Patil, 45, noted that "the Obama administration has embraced the use of data to improve the operation of the US government and the interactions that people have with it."
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Patil said his role "will be to responsibly source, process, and leverage data in a timely fashion to enable transparency, provide security, and foster innovation for the benefit of the American public, in order to maximize the nation's return on its investment in data.
Patil said he planned to focus on four activities: Providing vision on how to provide maximum social return on federal data; Creating nationwide data policies that enable shared services and forward-leaning practices to advance our nation's leadership in the data age; Working with agencies to establish best practices for data management and ensure long-term sustainability of databases; Recruiting and retaining the best minds in data science for public service to address these data science objectives and act as conduits among the government, academia, and industry.
President Barack 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 chief technology officer Megan Smith. "DJ joins the White House following an incredible career as a data scientist - a term he helped coin - in the public and private sectors, and in academia," she said.
Most recently, Patil served as the Vice President of Product at RelateIQ, which was acquired by Salesforce. He also previously held positions at LinkedIn, Greylock Partners, Skype, PayPal, and eBay. Prior to his work in the private sector, Patil worked at the Department of Defence, where he directed new efforts to bridge computational and social sciences in fields like social network analysis to help anticipate emerging threats to the United States.
As a doctoral student and faculty member at the University of Maryland, DJ used open data sets published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (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 influential articles and books explaining the important current and potential applications of data science.