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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 ResearchLearn more
Microsoft Research’s Windows Azure for Research program, which features a continuing series of Windows Azure cloud training events and a program of Windows Azure research grants, has been going strong since its launch in September 2013. As the December 15, 2013, deadline for the second round of grant proposals approached, we braced ourselves for a barrage of creative ideas. We weren’t disappointed, receiving proposals from every continent (well, except Antarctica). The response was particularly strong from such countries as Brazil and China, where our recent training events gave researchers an excellent, hands-on view of the capabilities of Windows Azure.
Several strong research themes that had emerged in the first round of proposals continued in the second round. Specifically, the life sciences and the emerging field of urban science were abundantly represented. Both themes can be thought of as big data topics, but they are really part of what we call the fourth paradigm of science, which is about discovering new scientific principles through deep analysis of massive amounts of data.Urban science, which can be described as an interdisciplinary mash-up of computer science and social science, is becoming an important tool for city planners. By using the real-time data that a typical modern city generates, they can gain a better understanding how to improve life for the city’s inhabitants. The cloud is ideally suited to collecting, filtering, analyzing, and sharing these data. A set of related topics that came on strong in the second-round proposals involved environmental science, ecology, and geosciences. Again, the common theme is using Windows Azure on the Microsoft cloud for data collection, analysis, and dissemination. In addition to such fourth-paradigm ideas, we received a large number of excellent computer science proposals that rely on the scale of the cloud to experiment with new algorithms and database topics. Selecting the winning proposals was extremely difficult, as we can fund only a fraction of the submissions. Nonetheless, we persevered and winnowed the proposals down to the grant recipients listed, by lead author and project title, at the bottom of this blog. The order might appear random, but trust me, there’s a logic to it (hint: take a look at the alphabetical order of the country names). You can review abstracts for these proposals at Windows Azure for Research. As a reminder, the next deadline for proposals is February 15, 2014. We encourage potential applicants to attend one of our training events or, if that’s not possible, to study the training material we’ve posted online. You can find a schedule of upcoming training events and the aforementioned training materials at Cloud Research Projects. —Dennis Gannon, Director of Cloud Research Strategy, Microsoft Research Connections
Second-round Windows Azure for Research Award recipients:
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In keeping with the January ritual of reflecting on the past year’s accomplishments, we’re eager to tell you about a very special event that Microsoft Research Cambridge hosted in November: the Body Tracking in Healthcare workshop. This occasion celebrated the completion of a two-year collaboration between Microsoft Research Cambridge and Lancaster University, during which we explored the use of touchless interactions in surgical settings, allowing images to be viewed, controlled, and manipulated without physical contact via the Kinect for Windows sensor.
Surgeons use Kinect for Windows-based system to view and manipulate X-rays and scans without physical contact.
The Kinect for Windows-based system, which has been widely covered in the popular press, enables surgeons to navigate through and manipulate X-rays and scans during operations, literally with a wave of the hands, without touching the non-sterile surface of a mouse or keyboard. It’s a prime example of the burgeoning field of natural user interface (NUI), which promises to change our relationship with today’s ubiquitous devices. The workshop brought together experts from academia and industry to discuss the use of Kinect for Windows in medicine—in applications that extend well beyond the operating room. Kinect’s body tracking abilities are already being harnessed for clinical assessments of, for example, children with motor disabilities. One talk at the workshop demonstrated a system in which youngsters with cerebral palsy play simple computer games while Kinect for Windows monitors their movements, providing data that physicians can use to assess the state of the disease. Other researchers are exploring ways to use Kinect for Windows to evaluate the damage caused by strokes and to create and monitor game-based rehabilitation exercises, many of which can be performed by stroke patients in their own homes. Still other presentations showed how Kinect can assist in diagnosing disorders of the brain and nervous system, including Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. We even saw how the Kinect camera and motion sensors can be utilized to compensate for patient movement during medical imaging—a boon to anyone who’s had to undergo repeat X-rays because he or she breathed during the first imaging.We hope to publish a comprehensive report on the projects shown at the workshop, either via a special issue of a journal or in a book. Meanwhile, a cover story in the January 2014 issue of Communications of the ACM features some of this work.—Scarlet Schwiderski-Grosche, Senior Research Program Manager, Microsoft Research Connections EMEA; Stewart Tansley, Director, Microsoft Research Connections; Abigail Sellen, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research Cambridge; and Kenton O’Hara, Researcher, Microsoft Research CambridgeLearn more