Data.gov is a recent example of our ability to gather, store and analyze enormous, unprecedented quantities of information. Projects like these have the power to change our lives by driving transparency, accountability and collaboration. Data.gov is a testament to the times we live in and what we can do with big data technologies. But, perhaps more importantly, it is a testament to the big data community and the talented people behind the data who are dedicated to making it meaningful to the rest of us. It's time to bring these folks out of the shadows.

Guest author Scott Yara is co-founder Greenplum and VP Products, EMC. Prior to Greenplum, Scott served as VP for Digital Island, a publicly traded Internet infrastructure services company that was acquired by Cable & Wireless in 2001. You can find more of his writing at The Huffington Post.

Data.gov launched in May 2009 with the goal of increasing public access to non-sensitive data generated by the U.S. government. It went from storing 47 datasets at its initial launch to more than 250,000 datasets one year later. Despite its success, it's likely that it will loose up to 75% of its funding as part of the new federal budget. Its fate is now up to the federal CIO office, which will decide how to implement those cuts - along with cuts to multiple transparency projects like USASpending.gov, Apps.gov/now and Paymentaccuracy.gov - later this year. A campaign to "Save the Data" has been launched, and numerous folks have spoken up against the decision, including more than 50 startups that plan to continue to make the data accessible.

Data.gov is a high-profile big data project, and there many, many projects like these going on all the time, all around us. Talented information alchemists work quietly in the shadows of data centers and corners of computer labs at some of the world's most innovative enterprises, solving mankind's most challenging problems, and uncovering new opportunities based on startling new insights from mountains of ones and zeros.

Data Hero Awards 2011

If you're reading this on or prior to Friday, April 22, 2011, there's still time to submit a nomination for the Data Hero Awards 2011. Supporting documentation is optional, but you're welcome to send us research papers, examples of media coverage and testimonials from third-party sources or customers.

Winners will be selected by an independent panel of judges drafted from the big data world. The judges will assess candidates based on how well their innovations break with conventional ideas or processes, whether they went beyond marginal improvements on something that already existed, if they have made a long lasting impact on future innovations and, of course, whether they are able to leap tall data warehouses in a single bound. The honorees will be announced at the EMC World Conference in Las Vegas, May 9-12, 2011 and online at EMC.com.

These professionals are the new heroes of the big data era. They're engineers, programmers, statisticians and other information professionals with a seemingly supernatural ability to survey, scrutinize, process and make magic with massive caches of data. They examine data under a virtual microscope with a sharp, technology-enabled eye, and they discover insights that inspire new opportunities. They are deeply engaged in an emerging new big data discipline that we refer to as "data science."

Our team at EMC Greenplum wanted to bring these information heroes out of the shadows and into the spotlight. We created the Data Hero Awards 2011 to honor the individuals, companies, organizations and government agencies worldwide that are setting the pace for our industry through their use of next-generation data analytics to create current-day innovations.

We're searching for big data breakthroughs at Internet and e-commerce companies, Web and new media, high tech, clean tech/green tech, consumer products, life sciences, health care, government, social services, education, energy, oil and gas, manufacturing and anywhere that truly great data science has erupted organically.

I urge you to take this opportunity to recognize the data heroes in your life. Let's rally behind these under-appreciated heroes and give them the same support being shown to Data.gov.