Microsoft Research New York City is opening with fifteen researchers most of whom are joining Microsoft from Yahoo Research.
The timing of the new lab appears not to be a co-incidence. Last month Yahoo announced it was laying off 2,000 of its employees, cuts which extended to its research staff, which explains why, according to the New York Times the new Microsoft Lab is "essentially a transplanted team from Yahoo."
The new lab is being managed by Jennifer Chayes, who will also continue as managing director of Microsoft Research New England, in Cambridge, Massachusetts which is currently engaged in work in social media, empirical economics and machine learning. The New York City lab will investigate complementary research areas: computational and experimental social science, algorithmic economics, and machine learning, along with information retrieval.
Its day-to-day operations will be overseen by assistant managing director David Pennock, who conducts research at the intersection of computer science and economics and is past chair of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Electronic Commerce.
Duncan Watts is another member of in the new lab. A former professor of Sociology at Columbia University and the author of Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age, his field is computational social science. He plans to continue work started at Yahoo identifying the structure of social links in sites such as Twitter commenting:
Access to social data is crucial to such research, and Microsoft is in a good position in that respect. The company has large pools of data on social interactions from widely used products such as Hotmail and MSN Messenger, as well as active partnerships with Facebook and Twitter.
Machine learning expert John Langford is the third "top" ex-Yahoo researcher and is also enthusiastic about the move to Microsoft:
“Machine learning is shifting from an academic discipline to an industrial tool. In the process, many new research problems are being discovered, shifting the center of gravity of research to a place between industry and academia, exactly where Microsoft Research lies.
The initial team of MRYC includes at least five others coming from Yahoo Research and there are plans afoot to involve local academic institutions in its work. Jennifer Chayes says The initial team of MRYC includes at least five others coming from Yahoo Research and there are plans afoot to involve local academic institutions, such as Columbia University, New York University, and the new technology campus to be opened jointly by Cornell University and the Technion Israel Institute of Technology. in its work that will create new disciplines at the intersection of computer science and the social sciences.