The federal government is no stranger to big data. In President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, a team of 54 statisticians, engineers, data scientists, analysts and organizers from all over the world were brought together to use centralized data in order to make decisions regarding television, fieldwork, raising money and communications strategy.

After his re-election the President:

  • Signed Executive Order 13642 in May of 2013, making open and machine readable data the new default for government information
  • Emphasized the importance of consumer privacy through his administration’s publishing of the Big Data report of 2014
  • Announced the Precision Medicine Initiative in his state of the Union address in January 2015
  • Appointed America’s first Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil, in February 2015
  • Established, which hosts more than 135,000 data sets from the U.S. federal government
  • Established a more data-driven culture throughout different departments, spanning the National Institute of Health and Departments of Energy, Commerce and Treasury


Because big data is so complex, new job roles are being created across the government sector. Below is a look at a few top data scientist roles at different government organizations:

Chief Data Scientist, U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy

Much more than number crunching, the Chief Data Scientist, currently JD Patil, reports to the U.S. CTO and receives assignments directly from the President. This person is expected to provide vision on how to provide maximum social return on data produced as a country, create and shape policies and practices across agencies, build data science partnerships with the private sector and help agencies recruit talent.

Data Scientist at Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

During the war in Afghanistan, DARPA deployed data scientist teams and visualizers to the battlefield to work with military units to solve operational challenges. A data scientist at DARPA works with a team to develop novel analytic approaches defense challenges. From data analytics support to developing data mining algorithms for structured and unstructured data, to implementing algorithms and working with software developers to scale them, the role requires analytical skills, security clearance and an understanding of government and defense processes, structures and methods.

Chief Data Scientist for Massachusetts State IT Department

The bottom line for current Chief Data Scientist of Massachusetts Curt Savoie is that big data drives good policy. Savoie works with data literacy and walks city managers through the basics of data and how it can be beneficial to government.

Chief Data Scientist for Florida’s Agency of Healthcare Administration

John Kane currently holds this role even though his background is in molecular biology, hands-on respiratory therapy work and management, rather than technology. Because data influenced so much of the financial decision-making during his career, he was able to build on his data and technology knowledge, and thereby move through the ranks.

Additional data science governmental job roles could include anything from Associate Director for Data Science at National Institute of Health to Data Scientist at the Central Intelligence Agency. Data scientist roles in government are plentiful and always changing, and data scientists will continue to find ever increasing opportunities in government at all levels.

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Click here to learn more about data science degree offerings that will set you on the path to employment in the government sector.