Some feds could get a new data-based title

Interaction with and management of government data has become a core tenant of the Trump administration’s plan for improving agency operations, and now officials want to identify the personnel that have the biggest hand in working with that data.

The Office of Personnel Management announced June 27 that federal agencies would have greater flexibility to classify tech-savvy employees as data scientists in addition to their traditional job titles.

“This guidance authorizes agencies to use a parenthetical of (Data Scientist) along with the occupational title for positions that perform data science work as a major portion of the job, and not as a collateral duty, for example Statistician (Data Science),” Mark Reinhold, associate director of employee services at OPM, wrote.

“Parenthetical titles indicate special knowledge and skills needed to perform the work of a position and must be based on the evaluation of work.”

According to the guidance, the new classification flexibilities are part of an administration effort to explore the work of data science within the federal government, and potential data scientists may be found in all kinds of fields.

“Data science is a rapidly changing field and positions may be classified in a number of different occupational series based on the nature of the work. Data scientist work involves overlapping skills including data analysis, analytical applications, big data engineering, algorithms, domain expertise (e.g., data cleansing, data management, analytics, visualization and engineering), statistics and machine learning,” Reinhold wrote.

“OPM has determined that data science work may be found in various occupational series, including but not limited to, the Epidemiology - Medical and Health Care Series (0601); Actuarial Science Series (1510); Operations Research Series (1515); Statistician Series (1550), and IT Specialist - Data Administration (2210). The occupational series in which data scientist work is performed is determined by the domain expertise required to conduct data scientist activities.”

Some agencies already employ data scientist positions, but this new authority will allow for feds with other job titles, but whose work heavily involves data science, to add the parenthetical to their job title.

The Trump administration has placed workforce development at the center of its IT initiatives in recent months, particularly in the areas of reskilling and hiring the talent necessary to carry the technological changes planned for various agencies.

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