“The Revolution in Experimental and Observational Science: The Convergence of Data-Intensive and Compute-Intensive Infrastructure”


Tony Hey, Science and Technologies Facilities Council, UK


The revolution in Experimental and Observational Science (EOS) is being driven by the new generation of facilities and instruments, and by dramatic advances in detector technology. In addition, the experiments now being performed at large-scale facilities, such as the Diamond Light Source in the UK and Argonne Advanced Photon Source in the US, are becoming increasingly complex, often requiring advanced computational modelling to interpret the results. There is also an increasing requirement for the facilities to provide near real-time feedback on the progress of an experiment as the data is being collected. A final complexity comes from the need to understand multi-modal data which combines data from several different experiments on the same instrument or data from several different instruments. All of these trends are requiring a closer coupling between data and compute resources.

Short Biography

Tony Hey began his career as a theoretical physicist with a doctorate in particle physics from the University of Oxford in the UK. After a career in physics that included research positions at Caltech and CERN, and a professorship at the University of Southampton in England, he became interested in parallel computing and moved into computer science. In the 1980’s he was one of the pioneers of distributed memory message-passing computing and co-wrote the first draft of the successful MPI message-passing standard.

After being both Head of Department and Dean of Engineering at Southampton, Tony Hey escaped to lead the U.K.’s ground-breaking ‘eScience’ initiative in 2001. He recognized the importance of Big Data for science and wrote one of the first papers on the ‘Data Deluge’ in 2003. He joined Microsoft in 2005 as a Vice President and was responsible for Microsoft’s global university research engagements. He worked with Jim Gray and his multidisciplinary eScience research group and edited a tribute to Jim called ‘The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery.’ Hey left Microsoft in 2014 and spent a year as a Senior Data Science Fellow at the eScience Institute at the University of Washington. He returned to the UK in November 2015 and is now Chief Data Scientist at the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

In 1987 Tony Hey was asked by Caltech Nobel physicist Richard Feynman to write up his ‘Lectures on Computation’. This covered such unconventional topics as the thermodynamics of computing as well as an outline for a quantum computer. Feynman’s introduction to the workings of a computer in terms of the actions of a ‘dumb file clerk’ was the inspiration for Tony Hey’s attempt to write ‘The Computing Universe’, a popular book about computer science. Tony Hey is a fellow of the AAAS and of the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. In 2005, he was awarded a CBE by Prince Charles for his ‘services to science.’

Tony Hey