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Computing is transforming science

23 December 2009

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Microsoft Research publication The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery is a collection of essays that offers insight into the rapidly emerging field of data-intensive computing. It highlights several scientific breakthroughs powered by advanced computing.

The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery

Publisher: Microsoft Research, 2009

The 30 thoughtful essays expand on the vision of pioneering computer scientist Jim Gray for a new, fourth paradigm of discovery based on data-intensive science and offers insights into how it can be fully realised.

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Microsoft Research/ Cover page of the publication

Four areas were central to Jim Gray's vision – environment, health, scientific infrastructure and scholarly communication.

It presents the first broad look at the rapidly emerging field of data-intensive science, with the goal of influencing the worldwide scientific and computing research communities and inspiring the next generation of scientists.

Increasingly, scientific breakthroughs will be powered by advanced computing capabilities. The speed at which any given scientific discipline advances will depend on how well its researchers collaborate with one another, and with technologists, in areas of eScience such as databases, workflow management, visualisation, and cloud-computing technologies.

This book should be required reading for every policymaker responsible for science and technology to remind them that we now have to provide the resources to fund the IT infrastructure. If we don't give them these tools, then we cannot expect them to finish the job.

In the articles in this book, the reader is invited to consider the many opportunities and challenges for data-intensive science, including interdisciplinary cooperation and training, interorganisational data sharing for “scientific data mashups,” the establishment of new processes and pipelines, and a research agenda to exploit the opportunities as well as stay ahead of the data deluge.

These challenges will require major capital and operational expenditure. The dream of establishing a “sensors everywhere” data infrastructure to support new modes of scientific research will require massive cooperation among funding agencies, scientists, and engineers. This dream must be actively encouraged and funded.

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