The newly appointed chief data officer for the Department of Energy argued advancements in enterprise data and analytics programs will require a cultural shift around data ownership.
The new chief data officer for the Department of Energy said Tuesday that "a legacy mindset towards data control" is one of the biggest obstacles preventing federal agencies from advancing enterprise data and analytics programs and developing comprehensive data sets.
Robert King, who was appointed nearly two months ago to serve as the department's new head of data management and policy, said the traditional government culture around data ownership can hinder collaboration across agencies and make it difficult for them to establish complete and thorough data collections.
"I say it tongue-in-cheek that chief data officers and chief analytical officers are as much corporate psychologists as they are data practitioners," King said at a virtual data briefing hosted by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology.
The Energy Department oversees a wide array of laboratories, research facilities and programs nationwide, many of which generate large volumes of data from their operations, research and experimentations. The diversity in data formatting, along with silos and other operational roadblocks, can make it difficult for the agency to utilize and integrate data throughout the enterprise.
“Data has historically been seen as: the data that you control is the source of your power,” King said. “The information era has taught us that the data you provide to the collective knowledge pool is now in the hands of the consumers, and you build up your data. That’s actually now where we can get our power source from.”.
The department has taken steps to improve its data management in recent years, and describes sharing and preserving data as "central to protecting the integrity of science" in its policy on digital research data management. The agency also recently invested over $23 million in funding for research on next-generation data management.
King, who previously served as chief data officer for the Social Security Administration and director of systems and information integration for the Department of Homeland Security, added that data literacy and other training programs can provide a critical step in helping government agencies transition to a more collaborative approach around data governance.
He also said that transitioning to a modern approach to data governance requires “strategic trade-offs” that allow organizations to better balance efficiency with data literacy.
“I think industry is getting there with some of their capabilities,” King said. “I’m hoping that the government is following suit.”