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Data scientists: Top talent for government pay?

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People who can turn big data into useful information are in growing demand in the private sector; is government keeping up with the trend?

After our story on the importance of data scientists, “IT Dude” commented: If the government wants to recruit talented Data Scientists, the government is going to have to make a lot of changes in the way it treats its existing employees. Why would anyone choose to work for an employer that consistently denigrates its workers publicly and pays less than the average market wage?

Frank Konkel responds: In attending many recent forums on big data and the federal IT landscape in general, I can say your comments echo the grumblings I’ve heard from many in this community. Data scientists in the private sector are highly compensated and recognized for their efforts, but I believe that is at least partly because private sector companies, driven by the profit motive, were ahead of the curve in recognizing the importance of data scientists. Private sector companies also like to market themselves and their talent, the government doesn’t do that as much.

As the largest collector of data in the world, the United States government is beginning to recognize that technology is not the alpha and the omega in terms of putting that data to use. Recently, we’ve seen well-known feds like Kirit Amin, deputy CIO and CTO of the U.S. Department of Commerce, call for an increase in these visionary types of data scientists – he called them Yodas after the "Star Wars" character – that might help agencies drag insights from big data. But perhaps more important in the grand scheme of things is how the government crafts policies that govern data, as they will directly determine the importance of the data itself and those who sift through it. The message is clear: it’s not just technology, it’s the people you have running it.

We know these people – whether you call them data scientists or not – are important, but how much they are worth and how much they will be in demand really will depend on what the government determines their value is, and that determination really hasn’t happened yet. But rest assured, this is an issue that only gets bigger ever y day with each new mountain of data that gets created.

Posted by Frank Konkel on Apr 09, 2013 at 12:10 PM


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