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September, 2010

Microsoft Research Connections Blog

The Microsoft Research Connections blog shares stories of collaborations with computer scientists at academic and scientific institutions to advance technical innovations in computing, as well as related events, scholarships, and fellowships.

September, 2010

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    ScholarLynk facilitates management and sharing of research

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    Regardless of how much content is available to today's researchers, it loses value if it cannot be properly managed and shared. At this week's 14th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries (ECDL) at Glasgow University in Scotland, Microsoft Research will present the prototype of ScholarLynk, a desktop solution designed to help researchers more effectively manage, organize, and share ideas and information.

    One of the main goals of ScholarLynk is to make scholarly data as easy to access and manage as one's personal music collection. Unlike other offerings, ScholarLynk doesn't lock the user into a particular tool or service. Instead, it bridges data silos by enabling the user to manage information across repositories and applications.

       

    ScholarLynk builds on research that was conducted as part of the Research Desktop project at Microsoft Research Cambridge. It leverages the infrastructure that was built as part of the Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research (DRIVER), a two-phase project funded by the European Union to provide access to over two and a half million publications in 250 repositories located in 33 countries.  Over the last year, DRIVER has also spawned the formation of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR). Microsoft Research is a sponsor of COAR; Tony Hey, corporate vice president of the External Research Division of Microsoft Research, serves on the organization's advisory board.

    By providing a unified interface for managing desktop and web data sources, ScholarLynk allows researchers to access the content of the DRIVER repositories from within their own computing environment. It also supports a highly collaborative environment, essential for projects being undertaken by more than one researcher. Currently, the prototype offers the ability to create reading lists by tagging the desired resources, seamlessly incorporating remote resources onto the desktop, and to communicate contextually by sharing readings lists and collaborating with other users of ScholarLynk.  Efforts are underway to include additional communication tools that will provide automatic subscription notifications, conversational capabilities, and routine updates when a user's work is edited or cited by others. Such tools will further connect ScholarLynk users with relevant content.

    In addition to connecting to the DRIVER repositories, the long-term vision for ScholarLynk is for it to evolve into a platform that can provide federated access to multiple repositories and portals, such as Microsoft Academic Search, Google Scholar, and CiteULike. Currently in prototype form, ScholarLynk will be available for download by the end of 2010.

    Alex Wade, director for Scholarly Communication, External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

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    Celebrating Italian Faculty Days

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    A global perspective is informed by knowledge gathered from around the world, and Sept. 16 in Rome, Microsoft Research had an opportunity to exchange information about the scientific foundations of the most recent computer-science technologies from an Italian point of view.

    One in a series of similar events, the Italian Faculty Days gathering was attended by leading researchers, faculty, and other IT professionals from Microsoft Research, academia, and private industry.  The event was held in the historical heart of the Roman capital, at Palazzo Valentini, headquarters of provincia di Roma since 1873.

    The goal of this event was to leverage breakthroughs in scientific computing to advance research. Presentations delved into research in the ever-evolving areas of cloud computing, high-performance computing (HPC), and technical computing.  Broad themes addressed included research directions presented by Microsoft Research, novel research results, academic curricula for faculty, and current industry investments.

    Sessions on cloud computing covered cloud computing at Microsoft and VENUS-C, using the power of the cloud to do science on the web, teaching cloud computing and Windows Azure, reducing energy consumption in cloud systems, and the opportunities and challenges of sharing information in the cloud. Sessions focused on HPC included developing biochemistry applications in the Microsoft HPC 2008 environment and real-time reconstruction on an HPC cluster for 3-D Computed Tomography applied to large cultural-heritage objects. Other presentations included F# for scientists and how algorithmic-systems biology propels nutrigenomics.

    In talking to the attendees, Judith Bishop, director of Computer Science for the External Research division of Microsoft Research Redmond, found they were keen to have the opportunity to meet during such a broad forum.  Her visit to the Centro per le Applicazioni della Televisione e delle Tecniche di Istruzione a Distanza (Center for the Applications of Television and Distance Learning Techniques; CATTID) at Sapienza University of Rome revealed a wide range of applications directed between the cloud and human interfaces. CATTID is directed by Ugo Ceipidor, and its six laboratories are coordinated by Carlo Medaglia, who holds a Ph.D. in atmospheric physics from University of Washington. Apart from projects on the Internet of Things, Near Field Communication, and a mapping project with Microsoft using Windows Azure, Professor Medaglia is working on new models for weather prediction that eventually will migrate from clusters to the cloud.

     

    Shown in the picture are (L to R) Francesco Visconti and Prof Carlo Medaglia (CATTID) and Mauro Minella (DPE Microsoft Italy) who organized the Academic Days

    In addition to thanking all attendees and presenters, I'd like to thank Paul Watson, who co-chaired the conference with me. In addition to being a professor of computer science at Newcastle University, Watson is the director of both the North East Regional e-Science Centre and the Informatics Research Institute.

    -Fabrizio Gagliardi, director, External Research EMEA, a division of Microsoft Research

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    U.K. e-Science Program a ’Jewel’

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    On a gloomy day in December 2009, an international panel of experts met at the unlikely venue of a football stadium on the outskirts of Oxford, U.K. The panel, chaired by Dan Atkins, who recently stepped down as director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) Office of Cyberinfrastructure, convened to review the achievements of the U.K. e-Science Programme, which I had the privilege of directing from 2001 to 2005, before I joined Microsoft Research. The venue for the review was chosen to overlap with the 2009 U.K. e-Science All Hands Meeting (AHM). These AHMs were begun in 2002, and their continuation three years after the end of the program's formal funding is, for me, a testament to the passion and strength of the multidisciplinary e-science community that we created. I was present in Oxford to discuss my management and organization of the e-Science Core Programme, and I was curious to see what impression the achievements of U.K. e-science would make on this distinguished panel.

    The review was organized by the U.K. Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which had set up a punishing schedule for the panel-a virtually nonstop series of interviews and visits, with hardly a moment to breathe. The results of the review have now been published on the EPSRC website, and I was delighted that the panel had concluded "that the U.K. e-Science Program is in a world-leading position along the path of building a U.K. Foundation for the Transformative Enhancement of Research and Innovation." They further declared that "the U.K. has created a 'jewel', a pioneering, vital activity of enormous strategic importance to the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the support of allied learning."

    The report concluded with recommendations for action by the United Kingdom and included a plea for the need to support "Crossing the Chasm" between research prototypes and mainstream cyberinfrastructure. Atkins recently presented a summary of the international panel's conclusions to the NSF Advisory Committee for Cyberinfrastructure.

    The NSF's Office of Cyberinfrastructure is developing a detailed implementation plan for U.S. cyberinfrastructure. Ideally, the NSF will take some of the good things from the U.K. e-science experience and avoid some of those that proved less successful!

    -Tony Hey, corporate vice president, External Research, a division of Microsoft Research

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