2012 Jim Gray Award / The Possibilities and Pitfalls Internet-Based Chemical Data

2012 Jim Gray eScience Award Presentation
At the Microsoft eScience Workshop 2012, Microsoft Research Connections Vice President Tony Hey introduces the Jim Gray eScience Award and announces this year’s winner, Antony John Williams, who delivers the following presentation.

The Possibilities and Pitfalls Internet-Based Chemical Data
In less than a decade, the Internet has provided us access to enormous quantities of chemistry data. Chemists have embraced the web as a rich source of data and knowledge. However, all that glitters is not gold and—while online searches can now provide us access to information associated with many tens of millions of chemicals, can allow us to traverse patents, publications, and public domain databases—the promise of high quality data on the web needs to be tempered with caution.

In recent years, the crowdsourcing approach to developing curated content has been growing. Can such approaches allow us to bring to bear the collective wisdom of the crowd to validate and enhance the availability of trusted chemistry data online or are algorithms likely to be more powerful in terms of validating data? While it is now possible to search the web by using a query language form natural to chemists—that of “structure searching the web”—increasingly, scientists are likely going to have to accept joint responsibility for the quality of data online for the foreseeable future. Their participation is likely to come through engaging in open science, the provision of data under open licenses, and by offering their skills to the community.

This presentation provides an overview of the present state of chemistry data online, the challenges and risks of managing and accessing data in the wild, and how an Internet for chemistry continues to expand in scope and possibilities.

Speaker Details

As corporate vice president of the External Research Division of Microsoft Research, Tony Hey is responsible for the worldwide external research and technical computing strategy across Microsoft Corporation. He leads the company’s efforts to build long-term public-private partnerships with global scientific and engineering communities, spanning broad reach and in-depth engagements with academic and research institutions, related government agencies and industry partners. His responsibilities also include working with internal Microsoft groups to build future technologies and products that will transform computing for scientific and engineering research. Hey also oversees Microsoft Research’s efforts to enhance the quality of higher education around the world.

Before joining Microsoft, Hey served as director of the U.K.’s e-Science Initiative, managing the government’s efforts to provide scientists and researchers with access to key computing technologies. Before leading this initiative, Hey worked as Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science; and, Dean of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Southampton, where he helped build the department into one of the most respected computer science research institutions in England.

His research interests focus on parallel programming for parallel systems built from mainstream commodity components. With Jack Dongarra, Rolf Hempel and David Walker, he wrote the first draft of a specification for a new message-passing standard called MPI. This initiated the process that led to the successful MPI standard of today.

Hey is a fellow of the U.K.’s Royal Academy of Engineering. He also has served on several national committees in the U.K., including committees of the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of Science and Technology. He was a member of the British Computer Society, the Institute of Engineering and Technology, and the Institute of Physics.

Tony Hey also has a passionate interest in communicating the excitement of science to young people. He has written ‘popular’ books on quantum mechanics and on relativity.

Hey is a graduate of Oxford University, with both an undergraduate degree in physics and a doctorate in theoretical physics.

Antony John Williams and Tony Hey
Royal Society of Chemistry
    • Portrait of Tony Hey

      Tony Hey