After 24 years at the University of Pennsylvania, Peter Buneman returned to Edinburgh in 2002 with a major challenge: to build a world-class database research group in the UK.
These are excerpts from an interview with Talent Scotland.
What made you decide to return to Scotland after more than 20 years?
Simply, it was a very supportive offer. Edinburgh is a great place for research, and Scotland is a fantastic place to work.
I maintain links with Pennsylvania, but Edinburgh offers real potential. The research here is well-known around the world, and we have plans to improve our standing further.
Tell us more about what you do and how it can be applied?
The Digital Curation research team is studying how best we can look after data for current and future use. There has been a proliferation of scientific databases, and the growth of the Internet has played an important part in both making things available, but in many ways harder to find.
Databases have an increasingly important role in science as well as commerce and that is why the UK centre was created.
How is the support environment in Scotland?
The support we get is excellent, though we are somewhat top-heavy with administration. I do feel we can still cut a lot of bureaucracy in academic research - especially compared to the United States - but things are moving in the right direction.
We have good contacts with industry worldwide and with a number of scientists who are using advanced database technology. I would like to see us engage Scottish industry and government better. I am sure there are all sorts of opportunities, if only we could connect at the right level.
What do you like most about living and working in Scotland?
Although I am originally from England, Scotland has always felt like home and we describe ourselves as Scots. I think it was inevitable that I would come back, if the right challenge became available, and it did.
Scots have a great reputation around the world. It is not difficult to get people interested in coming here, and we have researchers from all over the world. They tend to report little problems settling in, and often they want to stay even after their research project or contract has ended.
There are plenty of examples of researchers who have stayed on either to do further academic work, or to start up businesses or find a job in industry.
This article was published on Jun 15, 2010