Yahoo today announced big changes to its research operations and two prominent departures.
Yahoo Labs head and former chief scientist Ron Brachman and Yahoo vice president of research Ricardo Baeza-Yates are both leaving.
Meanwhile, some Yahoo researchers will begin to work much more closely with Yahoo employees who work on product. Yahoo vice president of research Yoelle Maarek explained the changes in a Tumblr post:
Our new approach is to integrate research teams directly into our product teams in order to produce innovation that will drive excellence in those product areas. We will also have an independent research team that will work autonomously or in partnership with product partners. The integrated and independent teams, as a whole, will be known as Yahoo Research. Yahoo Research will drive the company’s scientific efforts, look to the future, think out of the box, and be responsible for pushing the frontiers of the consumer internet. I will lead the independent research team, and together with Ben Shahshahani and the other integrated product research partners, will guide our research activities across the company.
This is another big change hitting Yahoo, following closures of some digital magazines, layoffs, and other strategic moves intended to cut costs.
The change suggests that the company found that isolating researchers from product people in a way that thwarts immediate product development isn’t necessarily the best approach.
Yahoo Labs, which was once called Yahoo Research, began in 2005. Brachman and Baeza-Yates were among the first people to join the group.
Yahoo Labs recently released a very large-scale machine learning data set for academic researchers to use free of charge.