A Decade of Cooperation with the China Computer Federation Supports Fundamental Research in Computer Science
By Xin Ma, University Relations Regional Manager of China, Microsoft Research Asia
Guardian to Future Generations: 10-Year Quest for Outstanding Doctoral Dissertations
Supporting development of local talent has long been part of Microsoft’s commitment to Chinese education. I joined the Academic Cooperation Department of Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) to lend my hand to turning this commitment into practice. In my position, I have the opportunity not only to communicate with various groups within MSRA, but also to interact with colleges and other academic institutions, and to understand how Microsoft can best help the Chinese academic community.
In 2006, Secretary-General Zide Du of the China Computer Federation (CCF) reached out to us. CCF was about to set up the CCF Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, an annual award that would be given to up to 10 winners selected from applicants across China. Fully aware of Microsoft’s desire to help nurture up-and-coming computer talent, Zide Du turned his eyes to MSRA for sponsorship of this award.
Our response was immediate and positive. Ever since its founding, MSRA has been demonstrating its core belief in creating opportunities for local computer talent, with the goal of growing with the Chinese academic community.
The idea behind our teaming up with CCF for the new award was simple: Development and breakthrough in China’s computer industry is not possible without the constant cultivation of new talent. Giving recognition to remarkable doctoral students would certainly attract fresh talent to computer research, which would surely result in more innovation.
That was the beginning. We are now marking 10 years of MSRA sponsorship of the CCF Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award. Some interesting facts: Ninety-three doctoral degree holders from China’s top colleges and research institutions have received the award. Most of the award winners have had research experience with MSRA, and more than 30 of them have held internships with us. Eighteen of the winners have been recipients of the prestigious Microsoft Research Asia Fellowship. Ten of the award winners joined the faculty of their alma mater after graduation and, through our Young Visiting Faculty Program (StarTrack), had six-month academic visits to MSRA. Many of the winners received support from MSRA for their research projects. This 10-year sponsorship is great evidence that our commitment to working with CCF to promote new talent is real.
Help for Young Teachers
StarTrack was officially launched in 2008, and CCF got the word out, raising awareness about the program. Young professors learned of the program’s existence through CCF, and quite a few became visiting faculty at Microsoft. The StarTrack program itself is simple: It offers each selected young scholar a six-month working visit at MSRA. MSRA researchers are teamed with StarTrack participants to allow the visiting faculty to become directly involved with MSRA research projects.
Professor Xuanzhe Liu is a great example of the collaboration between CCF and Microsoft. He was an MSRA fellow in 2007 and a CCF Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award winner in 2010. A few years after his graduation, he returned to Microsoft through the StarTrack program to work with MSRA lead researcher Yunxin Liu, and together they wrote several papers that were published in prestigious journals and presented at important conferences.
The Cooperation Continues
The China National Computer Conference (CNCC), hosted by CCF, has been the largest-scale and highest-level conference for academic, technical, and industrial exchanges in China’s computer industry. In Hefei, at the CNCC in October 2015, Dr. Hsiao-Wen Hon (Corporate Vice President, Chairman of Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group, and Managing Director of MSRA) delivered a keynote speech called “Era of AI: Polymerized Intelligence, Adaptive Intelligence, Stealth Intelligence and Enhanced Intelligence.” The forum, jointly staged by MSRA and CCF, was centered on the theme “Artificial Intelligence for the Internet Era,” and presented cutting-edge AI technologies as well as in-depth interpretations of artificial intelligence from a technical perspective.
“Do Tough Things”
Recently, we received a gratitude plate from the CCF for our decade-long collaboration with them. Members of Chinese academia have inscribed it with messages of recognition and praise for MSRA’s involvement in promoting the development of computer science in China. “The China Computer Foundation and Microsoft Research Asia have been able to work together for an entire decade, and are more than willing to continue such cooperation. A very important reason behind this is that the two parties share noble values and consistent orientations, and are extremely happy to contribute to the academic development and talent cultivation in the country,” said Secretary-General Zide Du. “The two sides have high visibility in their respective areas, each with unique yet strong complementary resources. A decade of cooperation resulted in a high level of trust and understanding…as well as a very smooth work process. The cooperation between CCF and MSRA should be a model for other NGOs in China.”
The mandate to “do tough things” is in part what makes basic research difficult, but it is also at the heart of science in its ideal form. It has been a CCF guideline for many years, has driven Microsoft’s lasting investment in basic research, and is an important part of this 10-year success story.