This article was published on May 3, 2012

New Microsoft Research lab in New York set to house “distinct but complimentary” expertise

New Microsoft Research lab in New York set to house “distinct but complimentary” expertise
Jon Russell
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Jon Russell

Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on T Jon Russell was Asia Editor for The Next Web from 2011 to 2014. Originally from the UK, he lives in Bangkok, Thailand. You can find him on Twitter, Angel List, LinkedIn.

Microsoft is to launch a new research center in New York which will push its research in a new direction and complement its existing teams with a series of specialist researchers, 14 of whom have joined from Yahoo, AllThingsD reports.

The new lab will become the thirteenth Microsoft Research office worldwide, but it is being heralded as a particularly significant addition, according to researchers who will work directly with the New York team.

Danah Boyd, a member of Social Media Collective at Microsoft’s New England site, says that new the new lab will complement the organisation’s existing structure and help provide a bridge with her lab for future research:

We’ve long noted the need for data science types who can bridge between us. And now, to my utter delight, a new lab is emerging to complement our lab.

The folks who are going to serve as the founding members of the new NYC lab are computer scientists, physicists, experimental economists, and data scientists.

Many of them are interested in social network analysis and big data problems but – or shall I say crucially – they all see the value in collaborating with ethnographers. In other words, we’re building a cross-lab team that’ll create new possible interdisciplinary collaborations that make my heart go pitter patter.

Yahoo recently laid off 2,000 employees as part of cost cutting, however the new recruitments haven’t been brought in as a group — in the way the Washington Post is reportedly hiring Digg’s tech team — says Jennifer Chayes.

Chayes manages the New York group and will also look after the new site in her role as managing director of both centers:

I don’t feel like we hired a group; I feel like we hired 15 amazing individuals, some of which became available because there were some problems at Yahoo.

The hires were likely influenced by renowned social scientist Duncan Watts, who ATD reported as switching from the struggle firm to Microsoft this weekend. At the time it wasn’t clear on Watt’s fit, but it is part of a new push from the organisation.

Writing on her Microsoft blog, Chayes admits that the company didn’t originally envisage a new office but after talking to the new recruits, it was decided that an expansion was the most logical option:

As we in Microsoft Research connected with them to begin a meaningful dialogue about their plans and aspirations, we began to fully appreciate not only their individual talents and expertise, but also their uncanny ability to work together with unrivaled energy and passion. The conversations left me and other Microsoft Research researchers inspired to expand our East Coast presence.

On the subject of the two labs working together, Chaynes says that there areas of expertise are “distinct but highly complementary” and she expects that “the whole will be much greater than the sum of its parts.”

The 15 staff at the New York site will plug into the existing Microsoft Research network of more than 850 Ph.D. researchers, who focus on more than 55 areas of computing. The company’s research arm works with a range of leading organisations, including universities, governments and other industry researchers.

We’ve reached out to Microsoft for more details about the lab, and we will update this post with any new information that we’re given.

Update: Microsoft has provided TNW with a statement to further explain its new hires and the role of the center.

We are expecting to sign on 15 distinguished Microsoft researchers including thought leaders Duncan Watts, David Pennock and John Langford.  These new researchers, who come to us from Yahoo! Labs, represent some of the best and brightest minds in research.

MSRNYC researchers will work together with others in Microsoft Research and in academia to advance the state of the art in social science (both computational and behavioral), computational economics and prediction markets, machine learning, and information retrieval.

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