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​Deborah Frincke: The data science of national security

​The director of research at the NSA outlines the precarious conditions of high-stakes data science.

computer coding on a screen

“Not everyone that cares about data science understands what it is or how to use it. It’s up to us to educate.”  | iStock/monsitj

In Deborah Frincke’s keynote address at the second annual Women in Data Science conference, the director of research at the National Security Agency marveled how much had changed over her two-plus decades working in data science, particularly regarding the number of women in the field.

“We never could have fielded something like this for I would say probably 15 years into my career. So this is amazing. It’s really wonderful watching it emerge.”

She also noted that while data science is burgeoning, there is a disparity that leaders will have to address. “Not everyone that cares about data science understands what it is or how to use it,” she said. “As a global citizenry, as those who understand the technology, it’s up to us to educate.” While detailing the work she oversees at the NSA, Frincke said that part of her role is to help bridge that transparency barrier. “It is very difficult for people outside the intelligence community to understand what it is we do. There are 16 intelligence agencies – understanding what any one of those does is tough.”

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