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In TNG, Riker is the first officer and Data is the ops officer. Both are fairly high ranking, which is in contrast to the other series in which ops is given to a low ranking officer (TOS: Ensign Checkov, Voyager: Ensign Kim, Enterprise: Ensign Sato [probably], DS9: Chief O'Brien).

Data is also third in command. Since Ops in the other series seems to be an entry-level position, and Data is not entry level, he must have had more authority on the ship. Is there any canon answer to what he was responsible for, and whether or not it differed from the traditional ops officer?

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    In specific regard to Data, he's 2nd Officer and Operations Officer and Science Officer. When you don't sleep, you can cover a lot of ground; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/37267/… – Valorum May 13 at 12:39
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    @Valorum, I think you just provided the answer, IMO. Data doesn't sleep, so as a result, he holds multiple positions onboard the Enterprise D. One of those positions is as Second Officer, third in command of the ship. Hence the authority at the same time as serving as Ops Officer. Picard knows he can easily handle those tasks. – MissouriSpartan May 13 at 14:50
  • Not sure how Ops is an "entry-level position". Almost any bridge station is manned by ensigns at least sometimes. – Brian Ortiz May 13 at 21:25
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    Does Data actually work longer hours than anyone else though? He certainly doesn't work 24/7, we see him socializing or in his quarters often enough to be sure of that much. – Harry Johnston May 13 at 22:18
  • @BrianOrtiz - There's a difference between the Ops station on the Bridge and the Head of Operations (who usually mans that position when it's their shift) – Valorum May 14 at 19:59
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This is addressed in the TNG Technical Manual.

  • The First Officer is directly responsible for:

    • Carrying out the direct orders of the Captain
    • Carrying out any standing orders from the Captain
    • Carrying out any general orders from Starfleet.
  • The Second Officer is usually a head of Dept with bridge responsibilities.

    • They take control of the ship in the event that the Captain and First Officer are incapacitated
    • They serve as OOD for at least one of the ship's shifts.
    • They communicate orders from the First Officer to other heads of Department.
    • Standard procedure is that the Second Officer should go on all away missions, presumably unless there's a good reason for them not to.
  • The Operations Officer (below referred to as an Operations Manager) is responsible for:

    • Coordinating the various needs of each department (for, for example, EPS power, sensor time, access to critical systems like the Deflector, etc etc)
    • Optimising the ability of the ship in order to carry out any missions that are ongoing
    • Shuffling priorities in response to orders issued by the Captain and First Officer.

Operational authority for the starship rests with the Commanding Officer (usually the captain or duty officer). The Commanding Officer is responsible for execution of Starfleet orders and policy, as well as for interpretation and compliance with Federation law and diplomatic directives. As such, the Commanding Officer is directly answerable to Starfleet Command for the performance of the ship.

The Main Bridge is directly responsible for the supervision of all primary mission functions. Through the Operations Manager, the bridge also monitors all secondary mission functions to provide an optimal operating state. The multi-mission operational profile of the Enterprise requires extensive coordination between different departments.

Data wears several hats on the show. He's the ship's Science Officer and Operations Officer as well as serving as Second Officer. One would assume he can carry out all of these tasks simultaneously because of his superb multi-tasking abilities, infallible memory and because he's awake 24/7, if not necessarily on-shift at all times.

For the record, although the Ops role is generally given to relatively lowly ranked members of the crew, it also seems to be a position that's often given to command-track hotshots like (future Captain) Chekov, (future Captain) Kim and (future Captain) Data during their first few tours.

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