Lee Dirks joined Microsoft in 1996, after many years in the library world, first at Columbia University, then at the Online Computer Library Center. For 10 years, he worked at Microsoft in many areas, as the corporate archivist, corporate librarian, and senior manager in the corporate market research organization. In 2006, he became director for Education and Scholarly Communications, and in 2007, he joined the team within Microsoft Research responsible for working closely with academia and research organizations to help solve some of the world’s most challenging scientific and social problems via collaborative research projects. He continued working in this role until 2011, when he was promoted to director for Portfolio Strategy for Microsoft Research.
With a clear vision of where scholarly publishing and library science were headed, Lee understood that the Internet was changing everything, pushing the existing publishing models towards obsolescence and fundamentally altering the academic library’s traditional role. He championed the shift in librarianship that has seen many top library schools recreate themselves as iSchools, where the emphasis has turned to teaching the skills of information retrieval and evaluation. He used his vast connections in the library world to promote the iSchool paradigm. When confronted by old-school reactionaries, he loved to quote U.S. General Eric Shinseki: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”
Lee was a powerful voice for change in the publishing world, too, pushing for the new model of interconnectedness, in which not only journal articles are available online, but also so are the underlying data sets for review and commentary.
Lee participated in several (US) National Science Foundation task forces; taught as adjunct faculty at the iSchool at the University of Washington; and served on the advisory boards for the University of Washington Libraries, the UW iSchool's Master of Science in Information Science (MSIM) program, and the Metadata Research Center at the School of Information and Library Science at UNC at Chapel Hill.
In late August 2012, Lee Dirks and his wife Judy, while on holiday in Peru celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary, died in an automobile accident when their car slid off the road. They left behind two young daughters and broken hearts throughout Microsoft Research and beyond. Lee was a thoughtful, charismatic, and loving co-worker, friend, husband, and father. He is greatly missed by many people around the world.
- "Microsoft Academic Search: Next-Generation Scholarly Discovery" (slides and audio) at the Association of Learned & Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) International Conference 2011, Heythrop Park (near Oxford), United Kingdom, September 15, 2011.
- "The next generation scholarly communication ecosystem: implications for librarians" at The 39th LIBER Annual Conference - Re-inventing the Library, Aarhus State and University Library, Aarhus, Denmark, June 30, 2010.
- "Speeding Science—Microsoft Research Solutions for Data Curation" (slides & video) at the DataCite Summer Meeting hosted by German National Library of Science and Technology (TIB), Hannover, Germany, June 8, 2010
- The 2010 OCLC/Frederick G. Kilgour Lecture in Information and Library Science—"The Next Generation Scholarly Communication Ecosystem: Implications for Librarians" the School of Information & Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, April 13, 2010
- Science Commons Symposium hosted by Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, February 20, 2010
- Presentations at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, November 9, 2009:
- eResearch Australasia 2009, Sydney, Australia, November 11, 2009
- University of Washington Open Access Week (Panel Discussion), Seattle, WA, United States, October 22, 2009
- Sun Microsystems - Preservation & Archiving Special Interest Group (PASIG), San Francisco, CA, United States, October 8, 2009
- Berkman Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, United States, September 19, 2009
- NAGARA Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, United States, July 17, 2009
- The TEDS Framework for Assessing Information Systems from a Human Actors’ Perspective: Extending and Repurposing Taylor’s Value-Added Model in The Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Volume 62, Issue 4, pages 789–804 (April 2011).
- The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, a collection of essays expanding on the vision of pioneering computer scientist Jim Gray—for a new paradigm of discovery based on data-intensive science (Microsoft Research, 2009).
- Sustainable Economics for a Digital Planet: Ensuring Long-Term Access to Digital Information, Final Report of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access (February 2010).
- Sustaining the Digital Investment: Issues and Challenges of Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation, NSF Blue Ribbon Task Force Interim Report (December 2008).
- Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge, Report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning (June 2008).
- The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communications and Cyberinfrastructure in Cybertechnology Watch Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 3 (August 2007).
- School of Information & Library Science (SILS) Board of Visitors, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), 2009–2012.
- iSchool MSIM and Informatics Advisory Board, University of Washington, 2007–2012.
- National Research Council (NRC) Study Committee on “Future Career Opportunities and Educational Requirement for Digital Curation” undertaken by the Board on Research Data and Information (BRDI) / Policy and Global Affairs Division (PGAD) / National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Term: December 1, 2011, through December 31, 2013.