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Winner of the Jim Gray eScience Award Announced

October 12, 2010 | By Microsoft blog editor

Phil Bourne accepts the 2010 Jim Gray eScience Award from Tony Hey

By Tony Hey, corporate vice president of the External Research Division of Microsoft Research

One of the high points of the annual eScience Workshop is the presentation of the Jim Gray Award to a researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of data-intensive computing.  I’d like to say a bit more about Jim and why we’ve named an award after him, but first, here’s the identity of this year’s winner: Philip Bourne. Yes, the Bourne identity.

Now that you’ve stopped laughing, let me say just a few words about Phil and why he’s this year’s honoree.  Phil’s contributions to open access in bioinformatics and computational biology are legion, and are exactly the sort of groundbreaking accomplishments in data-intensive science that we celebrate with the Jim Gray Award. In particular, Phil’s role as the founding editor-in-chief of the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology has significantly advanced open access in mathematical and computational biology. Phil is also co-Director of the Protein Data Bank (PDB), whose vast store of data-most major journals and funding agencies now require scientists to submit relevant protein structure data to PDB-has become a key resource for the biology and genomics research communities. Phil also co-founded, a website that lets scientists upload videos, lectures and presentations covering a variety of disciplines. He is committed to the free dissemination of scientific knowledge through new open access models linking textual publications to data in order to preserve the scientific record. It is this work-on education, open access and open science-that so perfectly aligns with Jim Gray’s vision.

Like me, Phil is a transplant here in America.  He’s originally from Australia, where he trained as a chemist. He’s now a professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, so I have to admire his choice of American climates. He came to UCSD circuitously-leaving his native land for post-doc work at Sheffield University in the UK, and then arriving at Columbia University, where he became director of the Cancer Center Computing Facility.

Now, a few words about the award itself.  It was established in 2008 as a tribute to Jim Gray, a Technical Fellow for Microsoft Research who disappeared at sea in 2007. Jim was intrigued by the explosive growth of data in modern science. He viewed the accumulation, organization, and utilization of this data deluge as the next step in the evolution of scientific exploration, and was utterly dedicated to the idea that data-intensive computing would help solve some of society’s greatest challenges.  So, in honor of the memory of Jim Gray, we celebrate the achievements of Phil Bourne and the other dedicated researchers who are striving daily to make Jim’s predictions a reality.