Starter for 10: David Bobbitt

Facing the quickfire questions is David R. Bobbitt, President and CEO of CDISC.


What attracted you to your current position? CDISC has a unique niche in the research world. When I first learned about the organisation, I was intrigued by its unusual mission of developing global data standards. Later, I came to know and quite like the people in the global CDISC community.

What is the most enjoyable part of your job? We are doing some new things, many for the first time. I enjoy challenges. As with most non-profits, CDISC is underfunded. It may sound strange, but I like that specific challenge: how to build sustainability. And to do so while the organisation is undergoing deep – and I hope – sustainable change.

If you weren’t doing this job, then what would you be doing? Either leading another amazing non-profit or perhaps being an entrepreneur again.

What made you want to be a part of PHUSE? Stephen Bamford was the first member of this global community of data standards users (other than CDISC Board members and staff) to personally reach out to welcome me when I was named CEO. I liked him and his kindness right away. Later, as I got to know more people from the PHUSE community, I became a huge fan of its culture. People who help other people, plus strong camaraderie – we need more of this everywhere in the world.

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island, what three items would you take? Maybe sunscreen lotion, a lighter to start a campfire, and a satellite phone I can use after a week or so to get back to home and work.

What, to you, is the most irritating industry buzzword or phrase? “Real-world data”! Come on, the other data are not unreal. The phrase is overly broad. To me, this is the equivalent of describing the first contact with aliens as “super foreigners”. The phrase is not especially informative, and it readily implies things that aren’t particularly accurate.

Who is your role model, and why? I’m a huge fan of Alan Turing, a gay man who despite being hounded throughout his life – and ultimately to death – contributed so much to humanity and human knowledge.

One of my college professors was a man named Bernard Mayes, who very much influenced my life. Bernard was the founding president of National Public Radio in the US and he founded the world’s first suicide hotline. He was quite a renaissance guy. Bernard was also a gay man in a time when we were not so much accepted in the world.

Both inspire me to do important things.

Can you describe yourself in three words? Driven. Funny. Honest. Please note that many of my CDISC colleagues would not agree on “funny”. They might say, “David thinks he’s funny.”

What was the last thing you watched on TV, or book you read, and why did you choose it? I read one to five science fiction novels per week. So, most recently, I finished “Romanitas”, an alternative history novel by British novelist Sophia McDougall. I chose it because John Scalzi, a sci-fi author whom I read, recommended it on Twitter. It’s McDougall’s first novel, published in 2005, but only recently available in the US.

If you could give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t let anyone else define you. Focus on your gifts, not your challenges, because your gifts are what will see you through.


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