Becky Champion, LexisNexis, answers questions put to the White House U.S. Chief Data Scientist

Earlier this month, DJ Patil, U.S. Chief Data Scientist with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, held a Q&A session on We collected our favorite questions into a blog post, which you can read here. We thought it would be interesting to take key questions from the session and answer them. In this post, Becky Champion, Senior Consulting Software Engineer, LexisNexis responds to the questions.

In a second post in this series, Jesse Shaw, Senior Consulting Software Engineer, also at LexisNexis, provides his insight.

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Q. Where do you look for emerging trends, (e.g. sources, events, websites, etc.)?

The term “Emerging Trends” is very broad. Each industry, country and section of science has its own trends. When I wish to look at what is currently happening, I typically just Google for that topic and review the data. I do have my favorites, of course. For example, in the IT area, I do like to review the information coming out of the Gartner Symposiums. For healthcare trends, I gravitate towards the CDC ( Oxford Economics ( is interesting for Insurance, Retail, etc. insurance fraud is rampant, as indicated at

Q. Is it better to be data-driven or data-informed?

I think there is a place for both and actually prefer a combination. While some business decisions should use data to provide knowledge, the decisions themselves should be made with that data in conjunction with experiences and instinct for a better outcome. That said, there are times when the data is too extensive for humans to wade through. In that case, being data-driven definitely has its advantages. However, these results should be monitored to ensure new changes/trends are taken into account, still keeping a combination of being data-informed and data-driven.

Q. What drives you towards data science as opposed to computer science where the skill set can often overlap?

Everything in equal measure. I am actually enamored with both. The best technologist in the world needs data (and understanding of the data) to prove out a concept. The data scientist who has no skills to effectively analyze data is not going to get very far.

Q. Can you tell us how a data scientist or a team of data scientists can change or affect a nations path?

In the current age, data is everywhere and there is a ‘peta-ton’ of it! We are not yet able to extract, correlate or extrapolate more than a fraction of what it has to offer. But every day, data scientists come up with new methods of coordinating this data to achieve more discoveries and predictability. A nation’s path (and indeed global paths) could be altered by these results. For example, a cure (or vaccine) for cancer may be discovered if a data scientist finds the right set of predictive elements. A future military conflict may be averted if a data scientist proactively alerts to potential causes. Using recent events, a data scientist may uncover a way of sifting through all of the data that points to a potential terrorist in a faster, more accurate way. (And by the way, these are further examples of the advantage in being both data-driven and data-informed).