In my Perspectives series I’ve been exploring some key relationships between Microsoft and external partners: Mercy Corps, NASA, the Library of Congress, the community of scientific and scholarly publishers, and individual scientific researchers including George Hripcsak and Dennis Baldocchi.

For this week’s show I spoke with Tony Hey, the VP of the External Research division of Microsoft Research. More than anyone else, he’s responsible for advancing what I’ll call the Jim Gray vision: All science is becoming computational and data-driven; a new breed of scientists requires a new generation of tools and services; Microsoft can and should rise to the challenge.

In coming weeks and months I’ll be reporting more of these stories of collaboration between Microsoft Research and scientific researchers. This is a treat for me because, little known fact, during the early part of my software career I took a hiatus to earn a graduate degree in science writing. I’ve always been curious about how science works, and this is an opportunity both to learn and to share what I learn.

It’s also an opportunity to expore, and to highlight, a side of Microsoft that you’ll never read about on TechMeme. When Tony Hey recently counted up the number of Microsoft Research engagements with university partners, the total exceeded 400. It’s an impressive outreach effort, and one that will benefit everyone: Microsoft, the scientists whose research work is enhanced by these projects, and all of us who depend on the outcomes of that research.