During USGIF’s GEOINTeraction Tuesday, November 19, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s (NGA) Chief Data Scientist Andy Brooks addressed the three areas he focuses on to produce meaning behind the data they provide users.

“Each of us has a role and a place in trying to figure out how we’re going to create value out of data,” Brooks said. “I try to figure out strategies for NGA to create value-added data.”

Data science, according to Brooks, is the art and craft of people leveraging technology to create value out of data. But, the first focus area in this process is not technology, Brooks explained. It is people and how they work.

By sitting with users to identify their individual needs and where they can build and integrate them into the product development process, NGA can have a much more user-engaged focus.

“[At NGA] we’re getting a keen understanding from folks who are doing the work, where is that future going,” Brooks said. “That’s one of the things I’m trying to push forward.”

The second focus area is the data—what data is necessary, and how should it be stored and structured. By understanding users, Brooks explained, NGA analysts are able to focus the data on their users’ needs to make an informed decision.

“It’s sitting down with folks and [asking]: What’s the data that you’re using to make the decision? What is the fundamental data that you need? What are you trying to do right now and what is the minimal amount of data that you need to be able to make a more informed decision?” Brooks said.

But the data needs to be stored and structured in a standard method. As any agency dealing with extensive amounts of data, Brooks explained, NGA has tremendous volumes but in many different forms. One of Brooks’ current initiatives is to create policies and standards for how the agency collects, stores, and keeps data.

“[Technology] is deliberately last because we first need to understand how people do their work and where they’re going,” Brooks said.

“We have this team at NGA called the Data Corps, who work on a number of these sorts of efforts,” Brooks said. The NGA Data Corps is a targeted initiative designed to ensure the agency meets the evolving and growing needs of its customers.

“We’re leveraging technology to complement and augment the human aspect,” Brooks said.

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Posted by Lisbeth Perez