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(Washington Post 5 Apr 99)

Microsoft is skimming the best minds of academia for its new Microsoft Research center, known as MSR. The company has recently hired Yale University mathematician Lazlo Lovasz, University of California-San Diego mathematician Michael Freedman, and California Institute of Technology computer graphics expert Jay Binn, among others. MSR, which currently has 350 researchers, plans to have 600 faculty by the end of next year, many of them "big names" in computer science, graphic arts, linguistics, biology and mathematics. Some schools are complaining about the "brain drain," calling MSR "a parasite on the academic establishment." MSR spends $3 billion a year on R&D, compared with a total endowment of $600 million at Carnegie Mellon University, for instance. Base salaries for senior researchers -- into the six figures -- are comparable to those at most major universities, but generous stock options up the ante. "They are eating our seed corn," says the chairman of Carnegie Mellon's computer science department. "If you take away great people from schools and put them in a place where they're not teaching anyone, who will train the next generation?"

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