Microsoft Research New York City: 2012 in Review

Microsoft Research New York City: 2012 in Review

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Posted by Jennifer Chayes, managing director of Microsoft Research New York City

Microsoft Research 2012 in Review logo 

The inaugural year of Microsoft Research New York City has been stupendous. All of us at Microsoft are thrilled with our newest lab.

The lab officially opened on May 3, 2012, with the announcement of a group of 15 founding researchers: David Pennock, Sébastien Lahaie, Justin Rao, David Rothschild, and Giro Cavallo in algorithmic, computational, and empirical economics; Duncan Watts, Dan Goldstein, Sharad Goel, Sid Suri, and Jake Hofman in computational and behavioral social science; John Langford, Miro Dudik, and Alekh Agarwal in machine learning; and Fernando Diaz and Elad Yom-Tov in information retrieval. Together, these researchers bring a deeply original and phenomenally productive approach to data science, particularly in the domains of economics and the social sciences.

In the fall, the group was joined by one more member, Jenn Wortman Vaughan, who has done research in machine learning, algorithmic economics, and social science, and who, therefore, was a great match for the lab.

Jennifer ChayesOur New York City researchers immediately dived in and engaged deeply with product groups, other Microsoft Research labs, and the local community. Rothschild spearheaded an effort with the Xbox LIVE team to put together a tremendously successful interactive channel for the U.S. election. Polls conducted on the channel during events such as the presidential and vice-presidential debates and election night received millions of responses—producing phenomenal data for academic studies and substantially increasing user engagement. On election night, Rothschild’s prediction engine, done in collaboration with Pennock and Dudik, correctly predicted all state outcomes except Florida. Other deep product-group engagements include Lahaie’s engagement with Microsoft’s Online Services Division, Langford’s engagement with the company’s Server and Tools Business, and many more.

Our researchers ran conferences to bring together both the academic and internal communities. Goel and Hofman organized the Computational and Online Social Science Workshop at Columbia. Langford was co-chair of the program committee of ICML, one of the major worldwide conferences in machine learning. He also organized an internal Microsoft machine-learning class attended by hundreds of people from Microsoft product groups.

The lab also has received many honors. Vaughan won the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama. Goldstein was named a Fellow at both the Center for Measurable Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University's Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy. Goldstein and Suri, along with Preston McAfee of Google, won the Best Paper Award during the 13th ACM Conference on Electronic Commerce.

Given their amazing start, I can’t wait to see what the New Year brings for our Microsoft Research New York City researchers!

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