Tony Hey talks about Jim Gray and his vision
of a new era of collaborative, data-intensive science.
tOnY he Y, vice PreSiDent of the External Research Division of Microsoft
Research, has long straddled the scientific and computational worlds. Hey
began his career as a particle physicist at the University of Southampton
before changing fields and serving as
head of its School of Electronics and
Computer Science. Prior to his appointment at Microsoft, Hey served
as director of the United Kingdom’s
e-Science Program, where he worked
to develop technologies to enable
collaborative, multidisciplinary, and
data-intensive science. Here, he talks
about a book of essays he co-authored,
The Fourth Paradigm, which commemorates the work of his late colleague
Jim Gray and points the way to a new
era of scientific collaboration.
the title of your book, The Fourth Par-
adigm, refers to the idea that we need
new tools to cope with the explosion of
data in the experimental sciences.
Jim Gray’s insight was that experimental science and theoretical science
have been with us since Newton, and
over the last 50 years, computational
science has matured as a methodology
for scientific research. Jim thought that
we are now seeing the emergence of a
fourth paradigm for scientific research,
namely data-intensive science. For this,
researchers need a different set of skills
from those required for experimental,
theoretical, and computational science.
tony hey speaking at the ninth annual microsoft Research faculty Summit, which brought
together 400 academics from 150 universities across five continents.
data cleansing, data visualization, and
how relational databases work. The
new data-intensive research paradigm
does not replace the other ones—it’s
quite clear that data-intensive science
uses both theory and computation.
Different skill sets such as?
For data-intensive science, researchers need a totally new set of skills such
as an understanding of data mining,
how did you come to be involved in
this line of research?
I first met Jim Gray in 2001, when I
was running the U.K.’s e-Science Program. In discussions with Jim over the
next five years, I came to agree with his
view that the computer science community can really make a difference to
scientists who are trying to solve difficult problems.
And that’s an idea you carry on in your
work with Microsoft?
Indeed. Computer science has powerful technologies it can offer scientists, but also things it can learn from
tackling some of the difficult scientific
challenges. So I really have a wonderful
job, working both with great computer
scientists and with great scientists.
the essays in The Fourth Paradigm fo-
cus on new research in areas like envi-
ronmental science, health, infrastruc-
ture, and communication.
There are important problems facing the world that we need to solve. The
book is a call to [cOntinUeD On P. 111]