Computing Research Association – Industry (CRA-I) held a roundtable in November organized by Jaime Teevan (Microsoft) and Ben Zorn (Microsoft) on Computing Research in Industry, which was based on the very successful and well attended session of the same name at the CRA Conference at Snowbird 2022. The roundtable was moderated by Fatma Özcan (Google) and the speakers were Lisa Amini (IBM Research Cambridge), Ben Carterette (Spotify), Jaime Teevan (Microsoft), and Manuela Veloso (J.P. Morgan Chase AI Research).
One of the interesting questions that Özcan asked is how each company thinks of problems and how they are selected. As in, are they top down or bottom up?
Teevan described Microsoft Research as supporting bottom-up research, driven by the creativity and innovation of each of its researchers and labs. Questions such as “what does the world want to know, what does the literature suggest, and what is interesting?” The impact driven research that Microsoft also does, as Teevan explained, tends to be more top down and driven to directly address the challenges.
Amini said at IBM individual researchers are always also bringing forward ideas, hopefully ideas that could drive an entire new field, new line of research, and/ or big efforts. Sometimes they are smaller. It can be something that needs to incubate for a while. As research matures, Amini said they often work with the product groups to transfer the new technology and collaboratively refine.
Carterette mentioned that Spotify gets their priorities top down. “Leadership informs teams what the priorities are for the company, but then within those priorities we’re free to find what we want to work on and where we want to have impact,” he said, adding that research teams work closely with product teams for the entire lifecycle of a research question.
Veloso and her team initiate their own projects that are motivated by the company’s goals. Once they discover something, they can help the company refine their business practices and directions.
It is clear that all researchers enjoy applying their creativity to new problems and these companies whether top down or bottom up allow them to do just that. Learn more and see the full recording from the roundtable here.