New classification for federal data science jobs is part of NDAA

The dome of US Capitol is seen through a skylight from the Visitors Center on Oct. 14, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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A long-awaited measure to create an occupational series job classification for data science and data management is part of the fiscal 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which was sent Wednesday to President Biden to be signed into law.

The legislation requires the Office of Personnel Management to establish specific job classifications for digital careers that will allow agencies to hire staff directly for their data science expertise. No such designation has previously existed across federal government.

Hiring staff with appropriate data management skills — and creating training plans for existing federal employees — remains among the biggest challenge for government agencies working to adhere to the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act.

The Evidence-Based Policymaking Act applies to all federal agencies outlined in the Chief Financial Officers Act.

Earlier this year, a report from the Government Accountability Office highlighted the concerns of federal managers over the lack of data analysis skills among staff. Only about 45% to 47% of those canvassed said they thought staff within their agency had the skills needed to collect, analyze and use different types of evidence.

Commenting on the measure, Data Foundation Policy Director Corinna Turbes said: “We are thrilled to see Congress take this important step in creating a federal workforce that is equipped to manage and leverage data across federal agencies.

“Improving the recruiting and retention of top talent in the federal government’s workforce is crucial to creating data literate organizations that can fully realize the benefits of leveraging data for evidence-informed decision making,” she added.

As part of the Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, GAO is required to carry out annual work to review how the legislation is being implemented across government.

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data science, Foundation for Evidence-Based Policymaking, Government Accountability Office (GAO), NDAA, Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
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