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Marion Royal and Hyon Kim: Data.gov's dynamic duo

Kim and Royal

Marion Royal (left) and Hyon Kim lead the small team behind the government's data portal.

The growth of Data.gov from 47 data sets at its launch in May 2009 to more than 400,000 today is impressive. It's even more so when one considers that the team running it can be counted on one hand.

Program Director Marion Royal has been part of the Data.gov team from Day One, and Deputy Program Director Hyon Kim joined in 2010 — first as a detailee from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, then in a permanent role. Along with Program Manager Alan Vander Mallie, a single project management oversight contractor, and Data.gov evangelist Jeanne Holm (who is detailed from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory), Kim and Royal manage the site. Their focus is on coordinating with more than 170 contributing agencies and looking for ways to encourage better use of the data from those within and outside the government.

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Holm is usually the public face of Data.gov, but Kim and Royal said that internally, there are few bright lines between team responsibilities. "I don't think there's a formal split," Kim said. "We're very small, and everybody just jumps in and contributes and makes sure that as a team everything gets done."

Kim and Royal bring different and complementary skills to Data.gov. Royal is a 21-year veteran of the General Services Administration and has worked on a wide range of agencywide and governmentwide data standards. In addition to her years at ODNI, Kim has worked on both sides of Capitol Hill, for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, and on the staff of the 9/11 Commission. Among many other responsibilities, she ensures that Data.gov's growing repository does not create national security or personal privacy risks.

Kim and Royal are excited about the next chapter in Data.gov's growth. The site recently debuted an expanded suite of application programming interfaces and a new data catalog built on an open-source system called the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network. Both tools are intended to encourage ongoing data use rather than one-time downloads.

And President Barack Obama's recent executive order declaring open and machine-readable data as the new default for agencies sets the stage for still more data-driven work.

"Our initial stage was in getting all this data together," Kim said. "In the next iteration, there's going to be more focus on emphasizing the effects of the use of this data and making more accessible." Royal agreed. "I am much more excited about the potential of open data across the government than I am about the potential of [just] Data.gov."

About the Author

Troy K. Schneider is editor-in-chief of FCW and GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media in 2012, Schneider was the New America Foundation’s Director of Media & Technology, and before that was Managing Director for Electronic Publishing at the Atlantic Media Company. The founding editor of NationalJournal.com, Schneider also helped launch the political site PoliticsNow.com in the mid-1990s, and worked on the earliest online efforts of the Los Angeles Times and Newsday. He began his career in print journalism, and has written for a wide range of publications, including The New York Times, WashingtonPost.com, Slate, Politico, National Journal, Governing, and many of the other titles listed above.

Schneider is a graduate of Indiana University, where his emphases were journalism, business and religious studies.

Click here for previous articles by Schneider, or connect with him on Twitter: @troyschneider.


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