When David Gruen missed out on becoming Australian Statistician five years ago, it caused eyebrows across the capital to rise.
At the time, Gruen - a respected senior economist at Treasury - had been widely tipped to succeed Brian Pink as head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Instead, he popped up at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet as a deputy secretary.
Looking back, the shift in course might have been an unexpected blessing.
It meant Gruen dodged the problems that bedeviled the early years of David Kalisch's term as ABS boss, including the rolling effects of deep budget cuts, the troubled 2016 Census, errors in crucial jobs numbers and the prosecution of a former employee.
It also gave Gruen the time and opportunity to deepen his skills in amassing and managing public data - abilities that will be crucial in his new role at the peak of the ABS.
Since joining PM&C in 2014 he has been immersed in the Government's data agenda, chairing an interdepartmental data policy committee and and driving a $130 million, three-year initiative to maximise the value and use of government data.
Gruen, the scion of a family of high profile economists with a history of advising governments and stoking change, bursts with energy as he talks about the opportunities to harness information to drive national prosperity.
"It is a very exciting time to be working on public data because it is very clear how powerful data can be," he says. "It's an economic asset and Australia is learning just how valuable [it] is."
Citing the business adage 'you can't manage what you can't measure', Gruen thinks the ABS will have a vital role to play in coming years as the Government grapples with how to best use the masses of information it collects to build national wealth and improve its services.
"[It] is becoming increasingly clear just how important data is for informing public policy, and for getting a sense of developments in the economy and in society," he says.
While the information the ABS collects can be a powerful tool, data breaches such as the massive Australian National University hack in which the personal details of around 200,000 people were accessed, underline the risks of collecting and storing large amounts of sensitive data.
In his final public appearance as ABS head last week, Kalisch bemoaned the spiralling cost of fighting off hackers.
"ABS is having to devote more of our scarce resource to regularly enhance our physical data security, but this does reduce resources available for statistical production," he said.
Gruen is alert to the risk.
"One of the critical things is maintaining community trust in how governments use public data," he says. "Having clear frameworks and being transparent about how you do that is very important."
It is not just about protecting information, but ensuring the public is confident the ABS, and the public service more broadly, is clear about how it will be treated and shared, he adds.
The economist is coy about his plans for the ABS, but it is unsurprising that he will be looking closely at crucial statistics like gross domestic product, which inform everything from the Federal Budget and Reserve Bank of Australia interest rate decisions to business investment plans.
"The national accounts were invented in an era when a much larger share of the economy was in manufacturing, agriculture and resource extraction, which are much easier to measure...than a world which is dominated by services, many of which where it is very hard to measure output.
"The fact that the economy is dominated by services means there are interesting and subtle measurement issues [to be addressed]," Gruen says.
Taking on the five-year appointment will extend Gruen's long association with Canberra.
He first arrived in 1959 when he was five and his father, Fred, an agricultural economist, came to take up a research position at the ANU. His parents leased a sheep farm where South.Point, Tuggeranong now sits.
"My father thought it was quite a good idea as an agricultural economist, and he quite liked living on the farm.
"But my mother was the farmer. She was the one for whom it was more than a hobby, it was a business."
Gruen's association with the land has persisted.
While the property in Tuggeranong is "long gone", his parents later bought a mixed cattle and sheep farm between Hall and Murrumbateman, and Gruen, along with his brother Nicholas (chief executive officer of consultancy Lateral Economics) continue to run it.
It means he has witnessed first hand the disastrous effects of the drought.
"We are in the fortunate position of not having to rely on the income from the farm as our sole source of [earnings]. For people for whom that is true, it is diabolical."