Friday, May 15, 2009

Third FRS for Informatics@Edinburgh
— but only one Oscar.

Congratulations to Peter Buneman on his election as a Fellow of the Royal Society.

A total of eleven past and present distinguished Edinburgh informaticians have been elected to this fellowship. Of these, Peter Buneman, Robin Milner and Gordon Plotkin are current members of the School.

Peter Buneman is distinguished for his advances in uniting programming languages and databases. On the theoretical side this has involved new results in types, monads and structural recursion including (with his student Ohori) type inference for record types, and (with Tannen et al) results that demonstrated a tight connection between monad-based languages and those based on the predicate calculus. On the application side, he used these techniques to demonstrate that -- contrary to an assertion by the US Department of Energy -- queries on existing non-relational genomic databases could be directly evaluated; fruitful collaboration with biologists ensued.

This research on databases and languages carries over into his recent study of the principles of semistructured or "web-like" data of which he is a leading proponent, and co-author of the first text book in this new field. Another recent concern is with the provenance of data on the Web, where data is continually copied and transformed. Already, with Khanna et al. he has built an efficient archiving system for scientific databases; more fundamentally, he seeks a formal basis for tracing provenance.

In addition to his work in databases, Buneman's early work on mathematical phylogeny underlies most modern phylogenetic reconstruction techniques.

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