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January, 2014

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.

January, 2014

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research adopts Open Access policy for publications

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    In a recent interview with Scientific American, Peter Lee, head of Microsoft Research, discussed three main motivations for basic research at Microsoft. The first relates to an aspiration to advance human knowledge, the second derives from a culture that relies deeply on the ambitions of individual researchers, and the last concerns “promoting open publication of all research results and encouraging deep collaborations with academic researchers.”

    It is in keeping with this third motivation that Microsoft Research recently committed to an Open Access policy for our researchers’ publications.

    As evidenced by a long-running series of blog posts by Tony Hey, vice president of Microsoft Research Connections, Microsoft Research has carefully deliberated our role in the growing movement toward open publications and open data.

    As is widely known, many institutions and individuals in academic and research fields believe there is benefit in creating a scholarly communications ecosystem in which the results of research are more openly available for access and reuse by the widest possible audience.

    While Microsoft Research has published actively in academic journals, conferences, and workshops since its inception in 1992, in adopting this open access policy, we have publicly stated our commitment. The opening paragraph makes this clear:

    Microsoft Research is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible because we recognize the benefits that accrue to scholarly enterprises from such wide dissemination, including more thorough review, consideration and critique, and general increase in scientific, scholarly and critical knowledge.

    As a practical matter, we believe that our open access policy will benefit Microsoft Research and the external research community by empowering our researchers to share their work freely, and it will enable Microsoft Research to build a complete, comprehensive, and accessible repository of our research publications.

    We encourage researchers with whom we collaborate, and to whom we provide support, to embrace open access policies, and we will respect the policies enacted by their institutions. We are undoubtedly in the midst of a transition in academic publishing—a transition affecting publishers, institutions, librarians and curators, government agencies, corporations, and certainly researchers—in their roles both as authors and consumers. We know that there remain nuances to be understood and adjustments to be made, but we are excited and optimistic about the impact that open access will have on scientific discovery.

    We would like to thank the many members of the research community who have pioneered the work on open access, and, in particular, to acknowledge the foundational efforts of Peter Suber. Finally, a profound thank you to Stuart Shieber, who generously shared his counsel, based on his experiences at Harvard University.

    Jim Pinkelman, Senior Director, Microsoft Research Connections, and Alex Wade, Director for Scholarly Communication, Microsoft Research

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    Young talent gathers at Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum

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    The past decade has witnessed an incredible boom in Chinese academic research—a boom fueled in large measure by talented young researchers. Over the past three years, I’ve had the privilege of supporting the Joint PhD Program, in which Microsoft Research Asia collaborates with leading Chinese universities to discover and foster outstanding research talent. From 1998 to 2013, more than 150 Chinese students have participated in this program. 

     Some of the young researchers who gathered for the first Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum
    Some of the young researchers who gathered for the first Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum

    “How about hosting a forum to get all these young talents together and provide them an opportunity to inspire each other?” I felt quite excited when this idea came up during a Joint PhD Program committee meeting. After a month of preparation, the first Microsoft Research Asia PhD Forum was held on December 12, 2013. It was a rousing success, bringing together not only the program’s PhD students but also more than 60 additional doctoral students from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beihang University, and the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    This PhD forum provided a platform for direct communication among top doctoral students. As one participant observed, it gave the young researchers a unique opportunity “to exchange ideas with fellows who have similar research experiences, which is very helpful and distinctive.”

    In addition to this overall sense of camaraderie and mutual inspiration, the forum featured many impressive sessions. Yu Zheng, a lead researcher at Microsoft Research Asia and a renowned expert on the burgeoning field of urban computing, gave an opening keynote that discussed how city problems could be addressed by using big data. This speech, from a researcher who was named one of world’s top innovators under 35 by MIT Technology Review, was an inspirational event, and many students clearly viewed Dr. Zheng as a role model. Xiaohui Wang, a PhD student from Tsinghua University, told us with enthusiasm, “I was inspired by Yu Zheng’s talk. It was great to learn how top researchers at Microsoft Research Asia have advanced their research progress.”

    Zhen Cui, left, and Dong Chen discussed their work on face recognition during the oral session.
    Zhen Cui, left, and Dong Chen discussed their work on face recognition during the
    oral session.

    During the oral session, 12 PhD students shared their published research findings. Particularly notable was the dialogue between Dong Chen, a Microsoft Research Asia Joint-PhD student, and Zhen Cui, a PhD candidate from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They focused on face recognition, and both of their papers had been accepted by 2013 Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. “Dong’s work on face verification is amazing. I am very happy and honored to attend this forum with such excellent peers, and I’ve benefited greatly from my interactions here with Dong and other students,” said Zhen Cui.

    During the forum, 16 PhD students presented their work with posters and demos. Pictured here are the two students who were awarded the Best Poster Prize.
    During the forum, 16 PhD students presented their work with posters and demos. Pictured here are the two students who were awarded the Best Poster Prize.

    During the panel session, four participants engaged in a spirited talk on how to achieve a better PhD career. They made me think about my own professional life, so interesting and meaningful were their observations. Their discussion on relationships with mentors impressed me the most. “Mentors are quite different from each other. As a PhD student, it is quite important to know your mentor’s style first, and then by working together with him, you will grow and be independent in research work,” said Shiguang Shan, a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

    A capacity crowd listened raptly during the panel discussion, How to Achieve a Better PhD Career.
    A capacity crowd listened raptly during the panel discussion, How to Achieve a Better
    PhD Career.

    As I reflect on the academic achievements and innovative spirit of these young students, I feel extremely satisfied and honored to have organized this forum. Although it lasted only one day, I believe the forum will be meaningful in the development of these promising young researchers.

    With the rapid development of Chinese research activities, I am convinced that the full potential of young talent is yet to be discovered. I sincerely hope that next year, more students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China will join us, and that the graduates of the Joint PhD Program will continue to make significant contributions to research.

    Guobin Wu, Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections Asia

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    WorldWide Telescope celebrates new release

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    For the past five years, WorldWide Telescope (WWT) has served as an enriching resource in schools, museums, planetariums, and homes all over the world, inspiring students and astronomy enthusiasts with its detailed views of the heavens and interactive educational content. In celebration of its fifth anniversary, we are pleased to unveil the 5.0 release of WorldWide Telescope at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington, D.C., this week (January 5–9, 2014).

    WorldWide Telescope 5.0 | Fifth Anniversary

    With this release, WWT offers powerful new features and includes access to exciting new data sets. The entire rendering system has been rewritten with cutting-edge technologies that give users a high-performance, cinematic experience. A new timeline editor provides tour authors with detailed control of camera motion, settings, and animation, allowing them to create sophisticated, smooth visual sequences with far less work. What’s more, WWT can now import and display highly detailed 3D models, and it even comes preloaded with several, including a high-fidelity representation of the International Space Station.

    Renderings of the planets and other bodies in the solar system also look better than ever, thanks to WWT 5.0’s new data sets. For instance, WWT 5.0 includes data about the moon from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. For Mars and Earth, new models that show how sunlight interacts with the planetary atmospheres provide realistic visualization effects, including simulated sunrises and sunsets. In WWT’s 3D mode, you can search for an Earth-based location and instantly fly to it.

    Charting the sky has never been easier with WWT 5.0’s collection of new and enhanced overlays that work in both the Sky- and 3D-universe modes. For easier control of these overlays, WWT 5.0 integrates with any MIDI compatible device. Now you can map a slider to fade in the new Hevelius constellation set—or show a galactic grid on the Milky Way with a touch of a button. This customization extends to the Xbox 360 Support and Custom buttons in the View tab.

    Another new feature, which has captured the attention of some of the world’s premiere planetariums, enables full-dome tour authoring for seamless displays on complex single- or multi-projector domes. Hundreds of thousands of people have experienced detailed displays of the universe, powered by WorldWide Telescope, at the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, as well as at other venues around the world. Moreover, the educational value of WWT extends well beyond the planetarium. The WorldWide Telescope Ambassadors program supports formal educational programs that use WWT to teach students about the seasons, the planets, and the sky.

    The American Astronomical Society (AAS) debut of WorldWide Telescope 5.0 will include demos and informal talks for professional astronomers on the exhibit floor; in addition, several researchers and educators are giving lectures on WWT during the conference. Microsoft is a sponsor of the AAS Hack Day on January 9, featuring support and participation by WWT team members.

    You can learn more about WorldWide Telescope and download it for free at WorldWide Telescope.

    Jonathan Fay, Principal Software Architect, Microsoft Research Connections

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