Computer technology for the advancement of science

Projects supported by the Microsoft Research Institute-FAPESP Research in IT are highlighted at FAPESP Week 2012 - Toronto Symposium.

Mobile computing systems for home health care. Textual simplification of Portuguese for inclusion and digital accessibility. Application of new technologies to monitor the study of the relationship between biological processes and climate change. The development of geosensor networks for environmental monitoring. Information technology applied to bioenergy genomics.

Various subjects in different fields, but all on the cutting-edge, these are some of the projects supported by the Microsoft Research Institute-FAPESP Research in IT.

“Since 2006, when we signed the cooperation agreement with FAPESP, we’ve had five requests for proposals and selected 18 research projects. These projects present a great degree of complexity in terms of problems and largely depend on computer technology for their advancement,” says Juliana Salles, Senior Manager of Research Programs of Microsoft Research Connections.

On this Wednesday (10/17), Salles took part in a symposium at the University of Toronto, Canada, which kicked off FAPESP Week 2012. The event brought together nearly 50 researchers from Canada and Brazil to discuss subjects on the cutting-edge of advanced research in several fields of knowledge.

Established 1991, Microsoft Research has a presence in several countries. Microsoft Research Connections is the division of the company that focuses on establishing partnerships with universities and institutes to develop education and research in fields that strongly depend on advanced computer technology.

Salles highlighted the importance of Microsoft Research’s partnership with FAPESP that allows it to support the development of very important research projects that are “not only scientific, but environmental, educational and social.”

One of the projects mentioned by Salles is entitled “Using a systems biology approach to develop a model of plant functioning,” whose principal researcher is Marcos Buckeridge, professor at the University of São Paulo (USP) and scientific director of the Bioethanol Science and Technology Laboratory (CTBE).

Salles went on to say, “The goal is to understand how genetic, metabolic and physiological networks work and affect each other in various environmental conditions. The current process for data analysis on this is found in manuals and that takes up a lot of time. The use of advanced computer technology will allow us to save time and energy, and could lead to a better understanding of the growth cycle of plants and their responses to different factors, for example.”

According to her, the partnerships made possible by Microsoft Research Institute -FAPESP Research in IT do not just advance the projects they support, but also the development of the science of computer technology itself as an area of research.

Another important point of the Institute is that it brings together scientists from different areas and regions. An example of this is the project “Interactions between land-vegetation-atmosphere in a changing tropical landscape.”

Salles explains, “It’s a project conducted by researchers from the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), the University of Western Australia, the Federal University of Minas Gerais and Microsoft Research in Redmond WA in the United States. We are now putting those in charge in contact with Microsoft Research in Cambridge, United Kingdom.”

The goal for the future is to not only support more projects through new requests for proposals, but also to “extend the potential and increase the impact of this research,” says Salles.