Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research

Google’s Hybrid Approach to Research

  • Category: Article
  • Created: January 17, 2022 4:50 PM
  • Status: Open
  • URL: https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/38149.pdf
  • Updated: January 18, 2022 5:03 PM


  1. CS is an increasingly broad and diverse field. It combines aspects of mathematical reasoning, engineering methodology, and the empirical approaches of the scientific method.
  2. CS is an expanding sphere, where the core of the field (Theory, Operating Systems, etc.) continues to grow in depth, while the field keeps expanding into neighboring application areas.


Research in Computer Science at Google

  1. The goal of research at Google is to bring significant, practical benefits to our users, and to do so rapidly, within a few years at most.
  2. Sometimes, research at Google operates in entirely new spaces, but most frequently, the goals are major advances in areas where the bar is already high, but there is still potential for new methods.
  3. Because of the time-frame and effort involved, Google’s approach to research is iterative and usually involves writing production, or near-production, code from day one. Elaborate research prototypes are rarely created, since their development delays the launch of improved end-user services. Typically, a single team iteratively explores fundamental research ideas, develops and maintains the software, and helps operate the resulting Google services – all driven by real-world experience and concrete data.

Implications of Google’s Mission and Capabilities

Google’s mission “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”

Google’s entire organization is focused on rapid innovation, and three aspects of Google’s technology and business model support this:

  1. By providing a rich set of computing abstractions and powerful processors, storage, and networking capabilities in our data centers, Google has been able to gain economies of scale and to sidestep some of the complexity of heterogeneous computing environments.
  2. The services-based delivery model brings significant benefits to research and development. Additionally, the services model, particularly one where there is significant consumer engagement, facilitates empirical research.
  3. Finally, Google has been able to hire a talented team across the entire engineering operation.

Hybrid Research at Google

  1. Google blurs the line between research and engineering activities and encourage teams to pursue the right balance of each, knowing that this balance varies greatly.
  2. Even in areas where there is a much higher proportion of research to engineering, the “Research Team” google have established is not as formally separate from engineering activities as those in other organizations.
  3. For long term research, Google just try hard to “factorize” it into shorter-term, measurable components.
  4. This approach benefits from the mainly evolutionary nature of CS research, where great results are usually the composition of many discrete steps. If the discrete steps required large leaps in vastly different directions, we admit that our primarily hill-climbing-based approach might fail.
  5. Hybrid research model thus defined as:
    • Aims to generate scientific and engineering advances in fields of import to Google.
    • Factorize longer projects (perhaps with very challenging goals) into discrete, achievable steps.
    • Maximally leverage our cloud computing models and large user base to support in vivo research.
    • Allow for the maximal amount of organizational flexibility so that we can support both projects that require some room to grow unfettered by current constraints, as well as projects that require close integration with existing products.
    • we emphasize knowledge dissemination using a flexible collection of different approaches.


  1. By coupling research and development, our goal is to minimize or even eliminate the traditional technology transfer process. Most of our projects involve people working with a given technology from the research stage through to the product stage. This close collaboration and integration furthermore ensures the reality of the problems being investigated: research is conducted on real systems and with real users. Our flexible organization also provides diverse opportunities for our employees and has positive implications on our innovation culture and hiring ability.
  2. We have chosen to organize Computer Science research differently at Google by maximally connecting research and development. This yields not only innovative research results and new technologies, but also valuable new capabilities for the company. Our hybrid approach to research enables us to conduct experiments at a scale that is generally unprecedented for research projects, resulting in stronger research results that can have a wider academic and commercial impact.