Jim Gray would be proud
The timing couldn’t have been better. I had come to Bethesda, Maryland, to present Dr. David Lipman, M.D., director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), with the seventh annual Jim Gray eScience Award. David was selected for his contribution to the development of NCBI, one of the world’s premier repositories of biomedical and molecular biology data. Every day, more than 3 million users access NCBI’s more than 40 databases. NCBI is part of the National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.
My visit opportunely coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the NCBI, an occasion I got to celebrate with David, who has served as NCBI’s director since its inception, and with his colleagues and fellow scientists. Imagine, 25 years of making biomedical information readily available to the public and the research community.
The gathering was brief, just 90 minutes, yet we had time to remember Jim Gray’s legacy. Several years before his disappearance at sea in 2007, Jim had visited NCBI and became excited by its mission, its people, and the activities in which it was engaged. He collaborated with the NCBI team in creating a “portable” version of PubMed Central, the archive for full-text versions of NIH-funded research papers. The success of this initiative is now embodied in Europe PubMed Central archive, for example. That Jim believed that NCBI represented the next generational approach to making scientific publications and scientific data accessible to future researchers is demonstrated by his specific mention of it in his oft-quoted last public talk. Together, David and I looked back at what NCBI had accomplished and remembered Jim Gray’s influence. I was honored to share comments about Jim’s Fourth Paradigm of data-intensive scientific discovery and to recognize David’s contributions publicly by presenting him with the year’s Jim Gray eScience Award.
David Lipman’s career exemplifies the kind of research leadership that Jim Gray believed in. The Jim Gray eScience Award is, more than anything, recognition of such leadership. In Jim’s memory, we select recipients whom he would have identified as those whose work and support of others have made a difference. As one scientist put it, “Jim Gray preferred doers.” David was selected for his contribution to the development of what must be the most comprehensive set of open access resources in the biosciences. Jim Gray would be proud!
—Tony Hey, Vice President, Microsoft Research