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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.

  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre: inventing today, tomorrow’s world


    When world-class research organizations work together on a long-term basis, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. That premise underlies Microsoft Research’s collaborative projects and joint ventures around the globe, including our recently renewed joint research center with Inria (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation).

    Since its founding in 2006, the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Centre has innovatively applied computer science and mathematics to a host of scientific challenges, from formal methods for mathematics to distributed systems and security, computer vision and medical imaging, machine learning and big data, and social networks and privacy.

    From 4D cardiac MR images to mathematical components, researchers gather at the Inria Joint Research Centre

    Microsoft Research – Inria includes 100 researchers overall: 40 permanent researchers from Inria, 30 permanent researchers from Microsoft Research, and 30 non-permanent researchers (interns and postdoctoral and PhD students, representing some 23 nationalities). Today, May 19, the Joint Centre continued its quest to use computing to help solve big problems, hosting an event that reported on the ambitious projects currently underway (see the list later in this blog). The event also featured the following keynotes from some of the world’s foremost computing experts, including Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research, who gave an inspiring presentation on how the joint research center is important to science, technology and society.

    Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president Microsoft Research
    Jeanette Wing, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research

    • Thinking For Programmers: Rising Above the Code”: Leslie Lamport, this year’s Turing Award winner and a principal researcher at Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, discussed the need for programmers to create extremely rigorous specifications before coding complex systems, particularly concurrent and distributed systems.
    • “Machine learning for Brain Imaging: from pattern analysis to brain atlases”: Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre, spoke about using machine learning to extract patterns of neurological activity that can lead to a functional atlas of the brain.
    • Formal components for the odd order theorem”: Georges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at Inria, focused on how to combine software engineering, programming language, and formal logic techniques to package formal mathematical theories into components that lend themselves to computer-checked formalization of results.
    • Big Learning: New Challenges and Opportunities”: Francis Bach, a senior researcher and team leader at Inria, reviewed recent developments in machine learning—such as improvements in algorithm speed and the use of generalized learning representations—that are tailored to solving modern large-scale problems.

    Georges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at InriaGeorges Gonthier, principal researcher and team leader at Inria 

    Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre Bertrand Thirion, director of research at the Joint Centre

    The Joint Centre is currently focusing on the following projects:

    Projects on formal methods and their applications

    • Mathematical Components aims to develop the ability of existing proof assistants, such as Coq, to automatically check difficult proofs in mathematics.
    • Temporal Logic of Actions for Proof System addresses challenges in certifying correct behavior of distributed and concurrent systems, in which there is no certainty as to when distinct components will interact.
    • Secure Computing develops new languages and associated certification tools to prove that implementations of cryptographic protocols are sound, thereby improving the security of Internet transactions.

    Projects on machine learning and big data

    • Large-scale Structured Machine Learning develops new methods for achieving efficient trade-offs between statistical accuracy and computational cost. It also develops algorithms that efficiently trade off exploration with exploitation in active learning scenarios.
    • Z-Cloud Workflows develops solutions for efficiently instantiating workflows in a cloud-computing environment by mapping tasks of the workflow to specific machines. It conjointly optimizes the replication of data within the cloud computing nodes.
    • Interactive Network Visualization develops tools for interacting with and visualizing data that arises from both online social networks and brain imagery, with a particular emphasis on time series.
    • White Box Search-Based Software Engineering uses machine learning to improve software engineering by automatically determining software parameters and assisting developers through the recommendation of code snippets.

    Projects on computer vision and medical imaging

    • Video Understanding aims to extract rich features automatically from large video catalogues, in order to support semantically rich queries when searching such catalogues.
    • Medilearn develops personalized models that assist in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions. It also focuses on identification of human brain activation patterns induced by conducting specific cognitive tasks.

    Projects on social networks and privacy

    • Social Information Networks develops efficient recommendation of contacts and contents to users of online social networks. It also addresses the design of reward schemes for incentivizing efficient filtering of information by users.
    • Privacy-Friendly Services and Apps develops means for users to protect their private information, such as geo-localization traces, while preserving the ability of applications to provide value-added services.

    All told, this one-day event captured the essence of the valuable research taking place at the Microsoft Research – Inria Joint Research Centre, and it points out the value of our long-term investments in collaborative ventures.

    Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA

    —Pierre-Louis Xech, Microsoft Research-Inria Joint Centre Deputy Director, Microsoft France


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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research support for climate change studies


    Last June, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a Climate Action Plan to help predict and address the impacts of climate change. To further this important effort, Microsoft Research is pleased to launch a special Climate Data award program, which offers scientists and decision-makers 12 months of free Windows Azure cloud-computing resources. The grants will go to 40 awardees selected from proposals submitted by June 15, 2014. Each award provides up to 180,000 hours of cloud-computing time and 20 terabytes of cloud storage.

    White House Climate Data Initiative addresses climate change

    This special Climate Data award is part of the ongoing Windows Azure for Research program, through which Microsoft Research not only provides grants of cloud-computing resources but also in-person and online training on how to use Windows Azure for scientific and scholarly research. Windows Azure enables investigators to harness the power and scalability of cloud computing to facilitate the collaborative and computational needs of data-intensive research.

    To further promote resilience to the impacts of climate change, Microsoft commits to make FetchClimate available for adoption. FetchClimate is available to all researchers—not just the award recipients—as a fast, free, intelligent environmental information-retrieval service that provides past and present observational data and climate prediction information. Microsoft will provide the FetchClimate cloud-based system for re-implementation and adaptation to the specific needs of new projects.

    Microsoft Research is also dedicated to sharing the powerful business intelligence tools built into the Microsoft technology platform. These tools support data self-service, analysis, visualization, and security, connecting decision makers to the information streams that will be forthcoming in response to the White House’s call to action through its Climate Data Initiative. Like FetchClimate, these business intelligence tools are available to everyone, not just the Climate Data awardees.

    Here’s a sample scenario for how these all these resources could be coordinated: Windows Azure cloud services—through FetchClimate—would provide climate predictions for future extreme rainfall events. This predictive information would inform a planning model built on Microsoft Business Intelligence technologies, in turn enabling state planners to prioritize emergency preparedness and flood mitigation projects to protect population centers and transportation infrastructure.

    We’re excited to be part of this effort to predict and alleviate the deleterious impacts of climate change.

    View more information on the award proposal process.

    Rob Fatland, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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  • Microsoft Research Connections Blog

    Microsoft Research and TWAS-AAS Recognize Outstanding Young African Scientists


    (from left to right) Fayçal Djeffal, Konrad Scheffler, Moustafa Youssef received the 2010 TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award in a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya.

    (from left to right) Fayçal Djeffal, Konrad Scheffler, Moustafa Youssef received the
    2010 TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award in a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya.

    On February 26, 2011, three African scientists received the 2010 TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award in a ceremony held in Nairobi, Kenya. The award, funded by Microsoft Research Connections, recognizes outstanding research in computer sciences that was conducted by African scientists and has had—or promises to have—an impact on the developing world. The award was established in 2009 as a partnership among Microsoft Research; TWAS, the academy of sciences for the developing world; and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS). This year's winners, each of whom received a cash prize of €7,000, are:

    Fayçal Djeffal, associate professor in the Department of Electronics, Faculty of Technology, at the University of Batna in Batna, Algeria. Djeffal was recognized for his contributions to the development of new approaches to study nanoscale electronic devices and circuits. His research group developed a series of novel soft-computing-based approaches (neural networks, genetic algorithms, particle-swarm computations, neural-space mapping, fuzzy logic, and experts systems) for the modeling of nanoscale electronics devices, now widely employed in many research laboratories.

    Konrad Scheffler, associate professor in the Computer Science Division, Department of Mathematical Sciences, Stellenbosch University, in Matieland, South Africa. Scheffler was honored for his contributions to the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology, particularly the modeling of molecular evolution in HIV and other organisms. His work applies computational techniques and probabilistic modeling to gain insight into the selective forces that drive the evolution of HIV as it adapts to changes in its environment; for example, changes resulting from drugs aimed at suppressing the virus or from the different immune systems of its hosts.

    Moustafa Youssef, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology (E-JUST), in Alexandria, Egypt. Youssef was recognized for his contributions to the fields of mobile and wireless networks, particularly in the design, analysis, and implementation of location determination systems. His work covers different layers of the protocol stack from the physical layer up to the application layer, with specific projects that target location determination systems, sensor networks, protocol modeling and analysis, peer-to-peer systems, network measurements, and security.

    The TWAS-AAS-Microsoft Award is open to researchers of any nationality, provided they have resided in Africa for at least two years prior to their nomination. In addition, nominees must have received their most recent degree—either a master's or a doctorate—within the previous 10 years. The selection of winners is handled by TWAS in collaboration with AAS. As noted above, the award is funded by Microsoft Research Connections, the division of Microsoft Research that drives collaboration with academic researchers and institutions.

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    —Luisa Marie Küppers, EMEA Business Manager, Microsoft Research Connections

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