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November, 2013

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.

November, 2013

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Windows Azure for Research gets sociable

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    I would like to invite you to participate in the new Windows Azure for Research social media sites on LinkedIn and Twitter. These are where you’ll find information on Microsoft Research Connections’ initiative for helping the worldwide research community take advantage of cloud computing’s computational power, scalability, and cost-savings.

    Connect with others who use Windows Azure for data-intensive research

    At the Windows Azure for Research LinkedIn group page, you can connect with researchers and domain experts who are exploring the myriad possibilities for using Windows Azure for data-intensive research. This group intends to foster conversations on getting started in the cloud and to provide a venue for discussing potential uses, for networking with other researchers, and for staying informed on the Windows Azure resources—such as training, technical curriculum, research grants, and community engagement—that Microsoft Research offers. It’s an excellent forum to connect with researchers and cloud-computing industry leaders to help build awareness of the benefits of using Windows Azure in scientific investigations. In addition, you can easily share the LinkedIn page with your peers by copying the group page URL and pasting it into your status update box on LinkedIn or Facebook.

    You can also to follow us on Twitter at @Azure4Research, using the hashtag #azureresearch. Here you’ll find useful information about upcoming training events and webinars, as well as links to Windows Azure tips and tricks for researchers.

    Dan Fay, Director for Earth, Energy, and Environment, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Bringing the cloud to researchers around the world and online

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    These have been impressive days for European research, highlighted by last year’s discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN and this year’s publication of the fifth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Both are stunning examples of thousands of researchers collaborating to push the boundaries of data-intensive science. But whether you’re part of a team in one of the world’s biggest research facilities or an individual working alone in a university lab, today’s research challenge remains largely the same: more data, more analysis, less time. 

    Free Windows Azure for Research webinar series

    Cloud computing can really help researchers resolve the issue of big data and focus on accelerating research breakthroughs and insights. That’s why we’re excited to announce the free, three-part Windows Azure for Research webinar series we are offering starting 20 November. These one-hour, interactive online sessions will bring cloud computing to life, explaining what it is, why it is so useful, and how to use it for your research in practical ways. We’re looking forward to answering your questions live during the sessions, so please join me online to explore:

    Also, we’re bringing our Windows Azure for Research program to Europe and Africa. This week (11–15 November), around 100 researchers will converge on ETH Zurich and the Microsoft Research-INRIA Joint Research Centre near Paris for hands-on training on how to use Windows Azure—Microsoft’s cloud-computing platform—to simplify their data-intensive work. These two-day courses (11–12 November at ETH Zurich; 14–15 November at the Joint Centre) cover everything from Linux virtual machines, IPython, scaling out R and MATLAB calculations, cloud storage, sensor data processing, and, of course, big data processing. We’re delighted to offer several more courses across Europe and Africa over the next few weeks. Sign up now to secure your place and get hands-on experience developing and deploying your research applications in the cloud:

    In addition to the trainings, we’re offering substantial allocations of Windows Azure storage and compute resources for selected proposals through the Windows Azure Research Awards Program. (Learn more about the awards.) We’re currently working with dozens of research teams across the world who responded to the first RFP, including European researchers from the British Library, STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Pantheon-Sorbonne University, Politecnico di Milano, Freiburg University, University College London, Newcastle University, INRIA, Vavilov Institute of General Genetics Russian Academy of Science, and the University of St Andrews. We’re excited to have a range of projects, from bioinformatics and environmental science to image processing and Science 2.0.

    We can’t wait to meet you, in person or online, so we can work together to help you take advantage of the cloud to make your research easier, faster, and more scalable. Please join the discussion on our Windows Azure for Research LinkedIn Group and on Twitter via @azure4research and we encourage you to use #azureresearch for all postings.

    Kenji Takeda, Solutions Architect and Technical Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    ChronoZoom challenge: visualize history and win

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    I love my job! Why? Because, as manager of Games for Learning and Digital Humanities at Microsoft Research Connections, I get to explore four of my favorite things: games, art, technology, and education.

    This week is especially exciting for me, because yesterday, we launched the Microsoft ChronoZoom Visualizing Challenge, which unites all four of these passions. Even better, it offers you the opportunity to participate—and maybe win a great prize (see disclaimer). Microsoft is sponsoring a challenge to create visualizations that (1) use ChronoZoom datasets and (2) provide new functions that have been requested by educators and students in our pilot programs. Read the Official Rules and register to enter the challenge.

    ChronoZoom: for the dynamic visualization of data

    So, how does this competition bring my four favorite things together? Allow me to explain:

    Games

    A challenge is defined as a game of skill. There is no chance involved. We will provide all contestants with the same dataset and the same basic information. You can use a wide variety of tools to create either a static or a dynamic visualization of the challenge data.

    Art

    The challenge is all about creating beautiful visualizations. In this regard, I would suggest that beautiful should be defined as “elegant, refined, and functional.” The visualizations should be simple enough for middle school students to use and understand, but powerful enough to enable these students to draw deep insights.

    Technology

    ChronoZoom’s robust, innovative technology is the result of three years of collaboration between Microsoft Research, the University of California at Berkeley, Moscow State University, the University of Washington, and researchers and historians around the world. ChronoZoom is a free, open source, community-owned project designed to run on any modern browser.

    Education

    ChronoZoom was originally intended as an tool for teaching Big History, which is to say the history of life, humanity, the Earth, the cosmos—everything that’s happened during the last 13.8 billion years. Recently, we’ve shifted the focus to general history education, adapting ChronoZoom to empower teachers at middle schools and high schools, giving them a powerful tool for explaining complex concepts of causality and ambiguity in historical thinking. We are following a standards-aligned curriculum we’ve developed in partnership with the National Council for Social Studies, the American Historical Association, the University of North Carolina, and a group of talented curriculum developers and subject matter experts.

    Challenge criteria

    You can enter by yourself or in a team of up to five people. If you work at a design firm and want to enter, please be sure you (or your company) meet our eligibility guidelines with respect to the public sector (see disclaimer).

    An independent third-party organization, visualizing.org, will assemble a panel of expert judges to evaluate the entries according to the following criteria:

    • Utility and flexibility: How easy is it to use and understand the visualization? Can it be adapted to other datasets?
    • Creativity and beauty: Does the visualization demonstrate a novel approach to the problem? Is the solution presented in an elegant, polished way?
    • Accessibility and openness: Is the entry open source? Does it work on all browsers?

    In addition, there will be two special prizes: a Student Prize and an Infographic Prize. The Student Prize will be awarded to the best entry made by a student or an all-student team. The Infographic Prize will go to the best non-interactive entry. This can just be a beautiful image that illuminates the data by using the creative tools of your choice.

    Prizes

    Entries will be eligible to win the following prizes:

    First Place: US$5,000 and a trip to Moscow (the one in Russia, not Idaho!) to meet with a ChronoZoom designer/coder/programmer

    Second Place: US$2,750

    Third Place: US$1,500

    Student Prize: US$300. If a student team wins, each student will receive $300, up to $1,500 maximum (for a team of five).

    Infographic Prize: US$1,000

    You can probably tell that I am thrilled to have the opportunity to invite you to take part in this challenge. It will be lots of fun and, best of all, the visualizations that are developed will be available for educators and student around the world to better understand history and concepts of historical thinking. If you are a developer, enter the challenge! If not, stick around and we will share all the entries with you once the challenge is over! The challenge runs from 11:01 A.M. Eastern Time (ET) on November 5, 2013, and ends at 11:59 P.M. ET on January 8, 2014. Register now!

    Donald Brinkman, Manager, Games for Learning and Digital Humanities, Microsoft Research Connections

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    Disclaimer: Open only to individuals 18 years of age or older who are currently enrolled as students at an accredited educational institution that grants college/university degrees (a “University”), or individuals 18 and older who are employed at an accredited educational institution that grants college/university degrees and who do not make procurement decisions in their employment, or individuals 18 and older who are employed at a private sector company and who do not engage in procurement or regulatory activities in their employment. Individuals may enter individually or in teams of up to five (5). Private sector companies that do not engage in procurement or regulatory activities with any public sector agency may also enter as well. Challenge ends at 11:59 P.M. ET on January 8, 2014. Read the Official Rules. (Back to blog)

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