R&D's New Face

MSR: Academic Model

Microsoft Research Director Richard Rashid makes no secret of his operating model: "The work we do is not that different from what you'd find at Stanford or Berkeley or Carnegie Mellon, in the sense that it is publishable basic research that is peer-reviewed. Our research may have a short-term impact on the product groups," he says, "but that's not why we do the work; it's a consequence of the work."

Because Rashid's philosophy is to first do good computer science and then see where it might fit, he focuses first on people. An example is the new Cambridge lab. "You don't establish a lab without the right person to do it," he says. "We had a great researcher, Jennifer Chayes, and she was really excited about a lab in that area. If it wasn't for her energy and initiative, it probably wouldn't have happened."

To be sure, many of the 272 research projects named on the MSR Web site are designed with major product lines like Windows or Xbox in mind. But many seem to have no likely application in anything the company sells today.

"We are growing outward into areas where computer science intersects with other disciplines, like AIDS research, computational biology and the environment," says Rashid. "We are increasingly engaged where computer science is making a big difference in the way other sciences are done."

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