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Computer Science and Informatics

Overview of Computer Science and Informatics

Since the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, there has been a continuous period of growth and development, including the cultivation of strong leadership, increased income and investment by the institution. This has help create an environment capable of sustaining further rapid development in the years to come.

REF 2014 results highlights

  • Computer Science and Infomatics at Middlesex placed 13th for power ranking overall across the sector.
  • In London power rankings, placed 4th in London and the top modern institution, above Brunel.
  • In London GPA rankings, placed above Greenwich and Westminster.

The 2014 submission comprised 56 staff and was structured around three groups: algorithms and software engineering; networks and distributed systems; and interaction design.

The Unit of Assessment case studies are:

Applied ethics – embedding ethics in the design of technology projects

Within the field of computer ethics, consideration of the design processes required for software development remained relatively neglected until the foundational work of Dr Penny Duquenoy, Principal Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at Middlesex University, under the direction of Professor Harold Thimbleby (Swansea University, Wales) helped introduce and establish the need for such concerns.

The impact of the embedding of ethics in technology is observable by noting the routine use of ethics expert reviewers and evaluators and on advisory boards in EU-funded projects since 2007. This has been replicated by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council who also now include input from ethics experts into their programmes such as the Research Councils UK 'Global Uncertainties' initiative. At a professional level, ethics has also become a core consideration for the British Computer Society and its representations to the community it serves.

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Complex user interfaces: design of products and services

Research by Middlesex University's Interaction Design Centre led by Professor of Human-Computer Interaction William Wong in complex user interface design for environments where there is need to support a high cognitive overload, as well as variability of user interface design, has led to impacts on the design of products and services in two organisations addressing the domains of crisis management software and the nuclear power plant industry.

In the former case, research arising from our investigations of user behaviour in complex systems has been applied by adopting our Variable Uncertainty Framework into the software product VSL Planner developed by VSL Systems AB and the XVR product developed by E-Semble Systems, which has been sold to the London Fire Brigade.

Related to this, our research on complex task analysis, specifically in abnormal situations resulted in a second conceptual framework that extended the Task Complexity (TACOM) methodology that has been used to inform and guide the Korean Atomic Energy Institute in their work on designing and implementing modern control rooms for atomic power stations in South Korea. The safety critical nature of these interfaces means the potential impact of this work is very high, as any failure could have catastrophic consequences.

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ICT inclusion and design for all

Work exploring the information-seeking strategies of older users by Middlesex University's Gill Whitney and Judy Wilson, in collaboration with Professor Paul Curzon from Queen Mary, University of London, as reported in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, is having a direct and significant impact on government policy in respect of the broad area of digital inclusion. Impact has been influential in two primary areas: advice and guidance to policy-making bodies and training needs for organisations so that design can accommodate industrial needs.

Specifically there have been invited contributions and provision of expert advice to government policy-making forums and to lead on training for designing for all, especially in the area of standardisation in Europe and worldwide, including under EU Mandate 376, which is in the process of establishing EU-wide rules to ensure accessibility to information and communication technologies (ICT) products and services.

The visible impact of these activities is the publication of several important reports and the use of the research to support the call for European Directive on the accessibility of public sector bodies' websites and the selection to work with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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Model checking multi-agent systems

The research work undertaken at Middlesex University on model checking for multi-agent systems has made a significant contribution both to theory and to applications for the verification of complex and critical systems, such as autonomous rovers and avionic scenarios. These scenarios require the verification of properties that go beyond traditional temporal requirements and include epistemic and strategic modalities.

Our work has contributed to the development of efficient model-checking algorithms and tools that implement state-of-the art features, and both the algorithms and the tools have been applied to a number of real-life instances, including scenarios from NASA applications.

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This technology has had a direct influence and usage in a range of domains including information seeking at the Citizens Advice Bureau and in the security domain both nationally (UK Ministry of Defence) and internationally (US Department of Homeland Security). The research has created a community of practice around the emerging field of visual analytics and has formed the basis of a successful FP7 project bringing together a consortium of 18 industrial, internationally-leading visual analytics researchers and police end-user partners from across the UK, Europe and the US.

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