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UOA 23 - Computer Science and Informatics
University of Kent
RA5a: Research environment and esteem
The Computing Laboratory has six research groups:
Applied and Interdisciplinary Informatics (AII),
Cognitive Systems (CogSys),
Computing Education (CompEd),
Information Systems Security (ISS),
Systems Architecture (Systems)
Theoretical Computer Science (TCS).
Note: superscript "e" signifies names of Early Career Researchers.
This section describes achievements concerned with infrastructure and
process; scientific successes are described by research group below.
In the period 2001-7, the Laboratory has increased its returnable
annual research income
to £984,624pa, a factor of over 4;
returnable research postgraduate numbers have increased from 23
to 39, a factor of nearly 2,
stimulated by bursaries pump-primed by
the Laboratory and the University, and we have graduated 56 research students.
These improvements have markedly increased the
department's research vitality.
We have maintained our strongest, most mature research groups,
while, at the same time,
encouraging fresh research activities, e.g.
the IS Security group led by
fostered interdisciplinary activities, particularly via
the AII group, with close
links to Biosciences and other departments through
the new Centre for Biomedical Informatics (Deputy-director
We have also established a separate
Cognitive Systems group, supporting our recent launch of
the joint Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and
Cognitive Systems (CCNCS) with Psychology
(directed by Bowman).
These centres form natural foci
for the development of new research programmes and activities.
Award of two of the first RCUK Academic Fellowships to the Laboratory
clear evidence of
the success of our interdisciplinary activities.
We have also established a wide range of collaborations
with other institutions;
examples leading to significant funding include
Derrick at Sheffield (FP7 ProTest project),
Timmis at York (EPSRC CoSMoS project),
Howse at Brighton (EPSRC Reasoning with Diagrams project).
Strategy to 2013
maintain the existing groups, providing continuity of
research activities, and
recruit staff so that smaller groups have
critical mass and sustainability.
Some 23% of our submitted staff are early career researchers, reflecting
our sustainable research base.
We have recently concentrated expansion on the
ISS group, building links with
the various aspects of security already covered
within the Systems and TCS groups, by recruiting
as Lecturer in security.
This meshes with the University's strategic priority to build institution-wide
research and enterprise activities in security.
We will continue to increase and broaden our research funding,
with a Departmental
target for awards of £3.5Mpa by the end of 2013
(45% above the current rate of £1.96Mpa).
For research postgraduates, the aim is to stabilize
total numbers at about 60,
but with a greater proportion of external funding;
the increased DTA funds resulting from our growth in grant income
helps do this.
We aim to
foster further external collaboration by targetting FP7 calls;
already, two substantial grants have been awarded
We will consolidate collaboration within the University by strengthening our
interdisciplinary research centres, and use this strength
to promote participation in new national and international
using the capabilities of the CCNCS
in national Neuroscience initiatives.
The University has
scheduled major investment (provisionally £6.2M) in new custom-built
accommodation for Computing in the 2008-2010 period,
so the physical environment will soon be significantly improved.
Further detailed plans appear under each research group.
Collaboration and Dissemination
The Laboratory has a wide range of links with industry, other
disciplines, Computer Science in other institutions and
with the general public.
Our substantial industrial links
include recognition of our Computing Education Research by award of the Sun Center of Excellence
in Object-Oriented Education
and as the first Sun Target University
outside the US, with associated funding for
Funding from Microsoft has included a Rotor award for
Memory Management Visualization;
Robert Berry of IBM is a Visiting Professor,
have been granted IBM Faculty Awards. Work on refactoring by
Thompson has lead to FP7
collaboration with Ericsson.
There are strong links on security, by
with Nexor (defence and government
security specialist) and by
with Portcullis Computer Security (security testing and management house).
Other industrial partners include Agilent, BAe, BT, Citrix
We encourage Laboratory staff to organize international research conferences
at Kent. Examples are ITiCSE'01
(Fincher), the invited workshop
on Engineering e-Business
Systems 2002 (Kent,
de Lemos and
European Workshop on Model Driven Architecture 2004 (Akehurst,
Linington), MM-net Summer School 2004
1st International Conference on Artificial Immune
Second EuroPKI Workshop 2005
European Conference on Artificial Life: ECAL2005
Technology transfer is delivered by
recent KTP award for Refactoring in the Erlang language and
in collaborations with
Axon on remote healthcare systems.
In outreach to the broader community, there is a strong programme
to promote computer science in local schools through workshops based
on the greenfoot and BlueJ environments developed by
and others, and
an Academic Fellow, has established a local "Cafe Scientifique",
in which research
is presented informally to open audiences in a local pub.
Service to the International Community
In addition to direct involvement in collaborative projects,
the laboratory has a large involvement
in peer review and conference organization. As well as journal and grant
reviewing, five submitted staff have been
EPSRC College members since 2001.
Over the period, the
Laboratory has provided 60 external PhD examiners (29 overseas),
25 journal editors,
and 320 conference programme committee (PC) members, including 60 PC chairs.
Departmental evidence of esteem
Award of two of the first tranche of RCUK Academic
First Centre of Excellence to be sponsored
by Sun Microsystems
outside the USA (2006).
Individual research groups
Research in the Computing Laboratory is sustained, managed and developed
through its six research groups which
meet regularly, with events
ranging from technical presentation by external
or internal speakers to reading groups,
planning sessions identifying new opportunities,
or reviews of project proposals from members. All
groups maintain a web presence
recording work in progress and
information on new initiatives or previous projects.
Some of our flagship
groups, such as TCS, represent
evolving activity over more than
twenty years. Others represent newer initiatives. They
offer an efficient working structure, encouraging the
exchange of best practice, and a collaborative environment for
testing and developing new ideas.
responds to shifts in interest or changes in staffing. A
major review in 2004 introduced several new groups,
triggered by the arrival of staff; minor
adjustments continue to be made. Each staff member has a home group,
but can be a member of others if appropriate;
cross-group activities are encouraged.
Staff are listed by group, distinguishing
primary affiliation (used for reporting statistics) from
associate affiliations (indicating activity spanning groups).
Applied and Interdisciplinary Informatics
Primary staff: D.F.Chue, A.A.Freitas (head), C.G.Johnson,
Associated staff: N.S.Ryan
Income £1,011,732; 17.5 research degrees awarded; 17.4 current students
+ 1 writing-up.
The AII group
is involved in
interdisciplinary research integrating computer science and
areas such as biology, mathematics, astronomy, anthropology and healthcare.
is to develop new computational methods, supporting researchers in a
wide variety of
related areas. This
involves two major research threads, natural computation
Natural computation involves
is developing new bio-inspired algorithms
for challenging data mining and bioinformatics problems,
such as hierarchical,
multi-label classification and protein function prediction.
He has developed
new algorithms in ant colony optimization [Freitas:4],
optimization, genetic algorithms, genetic programming [Freitas:2, Freitas:3]
immune systems [Freitas:1].
He has published
two research monographs and more than
100 refereed papers.
He has been the principal investigator in three EPSRC grants and one
Interreg (Franco-British) grant involving bio-inspired algorithms
for data mining and/or bioinformatics.
Johnson's research involves
three main areas: first, developing computational and mathematical methods
to support research in biology [Johnson:2-3], medicine and healthcare; secondly,
taking ideas from nature and using them as metaphors in
computer science, particularly for understanding and managing
complexity [Johnson:1,4]; thirdly, developing
computational methods for music and media technologies. He has been
a co-investigator in three of the four grants held by
EPSRC computational neuroscience grant.
an Academic Fellow, whose main research interests are bio-inspired
computing and systems biology. He works on
computational systems that explain the evolution of cell signaling networks
with pre-specified properties [Chu:2-3]. He collaborated
with biologists in modelling a gene expression pathway in
He has also worked on the underpinnings of
complexity and artificial life [Chu:4].
all have strong collaborations with Biosciences at Kent,
and have all published refereed journal
papers co-authored by biologists. They are involved in the
Centre for BioMedical Informatics;
is the Deputy Director and
serves on its Steering Committee.
Visualization is led by
whose research interests
focus on diagrams representing complex interactions between
objects, such as Euler Diagrams [Rodgers:1,2] and Graphs. He develops practical
layout applications (such as automated Metro map layout and WWW
visualization), as well as graph rewriting programming
languages and diagrammatic reasoning systems. He has applied visualization
tools to other application areas [Rodgers:4].
Rodgers has been the
principal investigator in three EPSRC grants relating to graph rewriting
for graph drawing, diagrammatic reasoning for software modelling
and visualizing Euler diagrams. He has been co-investigator in
an EPSRC grant on multi-viewpoint visualization [Rodgers:3].
He was also site coordinator for an FP5 Research Training
Network on visual modelling systems.
research focuses on terrain referenced navigation [Runnalls:1,3],
Bayesian networks [Runnalls:2]
and Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods. He has strong research collaborations
with the navigation systems group of QinetiQ Ltd., Farnborough (formerly DERA).
He has collaborated and consulted with them
The interdisciplinary application of computing will remain
the group's unifying principle.
plan to build on their existing key strength
in system biology and bioinformatics, by developing several new
strong international collaborations. For instance,
spent one month as a visiting researcher at the European
Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), initiating collaboration with
world leaders in bioinformatics, particularly Dr Rolf Apweiler.
to integrate diagrammatic and textual notations to create
highly expressive hybrid reasoning systems. In the layout area, he plans
to test his visualization techniques by interdisciplinary work with
plan to develop closer links with the TCS group.
Evidence of esteem
Guest editor for special issue of Artificial Life
(11(4), 2005) on Dynamical Hierarchies.
Invited Speaker, Workshop on Biology and Physics, at
University of Oslo, 2004.
Invited Speaker, Workshop on Genome and Protein Networks,
National Centre for Theoretical Science, Taiwan, August 9, 2004.
Program Committee Chair: 8th European Conference on
Artificial Life (ECAL-2005).
Editorial Board Member of Intelligent Data Analysis:
An International Journal.
Editorial Board Member of International Journal on
Data Warehousing and Mining
Editorial Board Member of International Journal
of Computational Intelligence and Applications
Associate Editor, Journal of Artificial Evolution and Applications.
"The Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and
Simulation of Behaviour"
of AISB Quarterly, 2006-present.
Track Chair, EvoWorkshops conference, 2003 and 2004 and editor
of LNCS proceedings.
Editorial Board Member of Information Visualization journal.
Initiator and co-chair of
the first international conference on artificial immune systems (ICARIS-2002) at Kent.
NSF Advisor on bio-inspired computing, 2003.
Primary staff: H.Bowman (head), R.A.Cowelle
Associated staff: C.G.Johnson
Statistics over 3 years:
Income £102,685; 1 research degree awarded; 2.5 current students + 2 writing-up.
The Cognitive Systems group is the Computing Laboratory arm of
the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Cognitive Systems (CCNCS).
The CCNCS was set up in 2004 to harness the potential for
cross-disciplinary research at the junction of Cognitive Neuroscience
and the Computational Sciences. It is well established that in order
to make breakthroughs in understanding human cognition a broad
spectrum of discipline-spanning techniques needs to be
explored. Accordingly, the CCNCS undertakes research in which behavioural
and neurophysiological experimentation informs and is informed by the
construction of computational models, e.g. [Bowman:2][Cowell:1-2].
Such studies then enable the construction of artificial systems.
In the three years of its existence, the Centre has flourished and
now boasts a dynamic seminar series and active members from a spectrum
of departments, including Computing, Psychology, Electronics, Physical
Sciences, Kent Institute of Medicine and Health Sciences, Philosophy and
Film Studies (http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/projects/cncs). At least 12
individuals from outside this UoA are regularly involved
in its activities.
The CCNCS recently opened an EEG recording facility, which is used
for theoretical and applied research on the neural basis of cognition.
The group investigates a variety
of cognitive phenomena. For example, we have developed computational
theories of human emotion and attention [Bowman:1] and applied these in the
context of human-computer interaction and affective computing. Perhaps
most excitingly, we have demonstrated how EEG can be used to guide
adaptive computer interfaces, which adjust the information they present
according to the cognitive state of the user. We have also championed
the application of formal methods (such as process algebra and model
checking) in the context of computational modelling of cognition.
Success of the cognitive systems group is witnessed by the funding
received, including the EPSRC project "Salience Sensitive Control in
Humans and Artificial Systems" and an RCUK
Academic Fellowship in "Cognitive Science and Robotics".
a new appointee to this Academic Fellowship,
activities by bringing to the group her work [Cowell:1-4] on
the modelling of rule extraction in category learning.
This group is strongly linked by cross-membership with the TCS and AII groups.
The group will expand the Brain Imaging activities, with
particular emphasis on fMRI and EEG recording.
Significant cross-fertilization is expected from the broadening and integration of
Cowell'se work by
exploiting these techniques.
A key focus will be on the
application of machine learning to the analysis of imaging data, thereby
reaping the benefit of the unique cross disciplinary skill-set offered by
the centre. We will apply our cognitive neuroscience findings in the
context of cockpit and brain-computer interfaces.
Evidence of esteem
Member of IFIP WG6.1, Architecture and Protocols for
Computer Networks, throughout period.
Editorial Board of Springer journal New
Generation Computing, throughout period.
Chaired and edited proceedings of 8th Neural Computation and
Psychology Workshop (Connectionist Models of Cognition & Perception II),
Primary staff: J.E.Carter, S.A.Fincher (head), M.I.Kölling, I.A.Utting
Associated staff: D.J.Barnes
Income £366,329; 3 research degrees awarded; 2.25 current students.
The Computing Education (CompEd) group are actively engaged
in building capacity for computing education research as a
distinct endeavour [Fincher:2] and in establishing
research-only publication venues; to this end, the group hosted
the second ACM International Computing Education Research (ICER)
conference in 2006.
Creating this specialist event has given a research focus lacking
in long-established conferences
(e.g. IEEE Frontiers
in Education; ACM SIGCSE Symposium)
which cover all aspects of educational
practice, marginalizing research.
CompEd researchers distinguish
Discipline-specific education research activity from
scholarly examination of their practice.
Our expectation for rigorous
research is that studies should involve more than one
classroom (by multi-institutional involvement or by
multiple instantiations of an intervention) to demonstrate
CompEd is a young and growing community, without
established paradigmatic research norms;
thus various methodological traditions are used,
from statistical investigations [Carter:3-4]
through empirical studies [D.Barnes:2,4] to
interpretative [Fincher:1] and theoretical
A special strength of the CompEd group is our work
on BlueJ, an initial learning environment for object-oriented
programming, using Java. BlueJ is widely
used in University-level teaching (865 universities
worldwide are using BlueJ
is lead designer, responsible
for its creation and development [Kölling:4].
Recent work has integrated BlueJ with
a professional environment (NetBeans), to ease the
student's transition to industrial-strength
techniques [Utting:3]. This work contributed
to the Laboratory's recognition as a Sun
Microsystems Centre of Excellence in Object-oriented
recent work targets
pre-University learning through development of the
visualization environment Greenfoot, leading to
greater engagement by school children
with Computer Science [Kölling:2]. Concurrently,
has worked on the BlueJ extensions framework,
the environment's utility to different teaching
approaches at the tertiary level
[Utting:1], and on the ACM Java Libraries [Utting:2].
Another strong CompEd contribution is in the development
and execution of multi-institutional (often
multi-national) research studies:
worked on one of the pioneering
projects [Utting:4] and
subsequently refined and
strengthened the methodology [Fincher:3].
We have worked on studies with participants
drawn from over 20
The CompEd group aims to extend work based on the
instrumentation of teaching environments and the use of
these tools to mount new multi-cohort, multi-institution
studies of CS student learning.
Plans include more detailed, in-depth
work on the Greenfoot environment and its support
for teaching and learning computer science.
The objective is to provide a beacon for CompEd research,
based on Kent tools, which enable stronger quantitative
tests of our theoretical contributions than would be possible in
a purely theoretical group.
We intend working with a regional network
of high schools, drawing on our existing
expertise in the design of multi-institutional studies.
Evidence of esteem
Editor-in-Chief of journal Computer Science Education.
Recipient of the 2003
IEEE Computer Society Computer Science & Engineering
Undergraduate Teaching Award "for sustained contributions
to undergraduate computer science education through rigorous
examination of teaching effectiveness and fostering and promoting
research in computer science education".
Chair: Innovation and Technology in Computer
Science Education (ITiCSE) 2001.
Invited keynote address, Australasian Computing Education
Programme Co-Chair, ACM Innovation and Technology in Computer
Science (ITiCSE), Denmark, 2002.
Information Systems Security
Primary staff: D.W.Chadwick (head),
Associated staff: A.M.King, R.DeLemos, P.F.Linington
Statistics over 2.5 years:
Income £340,010 (+£205,416 JISC-funded research); 1 current student + 2 writing-up.
The ISS group's mission is to research and develop user-friendly security
solutions for distributed systems. Security systems that are hard to use
are likely to be ignored or bypassed, leading to compromise. Major
research areas include: public key authentication infrastructures
(PKI) [Chadwick:2], privilege management (authorization)
infrastructures (PMI), trust
management systems and user privacy.
The recent appointment of
adds an application-oriented key management perspective [Hassen:1-4].
The group has attracted 21
research grants since 2001, leading to 80 publications.
PKI research has included case studies in the healthcare domain,
defining best practice in operating a PKI system and determining
deficiencies in current PKI technologies.
User privacy research has focussed on privacy protection of electronic
prescriptions and in trust management.
PMI-based research has increased dramatically, being a key component
of Federated Identity Management; nine
research projects have been completed, with six journal papers and over
20 conference/book chapters published. The
keystone of this has been the EC PERMIS project, which started in
December 2000, and culminated in the first
X.509 PMI-based system being built and piloted in
Barcelona, Bologna and Salford. The
PERMIS software [Chadwick:3] was released as open source,
distributed via the
US NMI software initiative, and via its integration into the Globus Toolkit,
OMII (UK) and Shibboleth, and now into VOMS and the UK National Grid Service.
Subsequent PMI-related projects have specified
open protocols to interface grid applications to PMI
systems, adding more sophisticated security features to
PERMIS, such as separation
of duties, delegation of authority, coordinated decision making,
and aggregate attributes from independent identity providers.
PMIs and PKIs are types of trust management systems, but they
traditionally depend on binary values of trust for certificate
issuers. Scalar values of trustworthiness will provide finer
granularity of control [Chadwick:4].
has researched various aspects
of this, including the trustworthiness of Certificate Authorities,
distributed systems and
reputation systems, contributed to the standards making process and
will next contribute to computing
the level of assurance of authentication.
has worked with Prof Sasse of UCL on two projects focusing
on ease of use
of PMI policy creation [Chadwick:1].
has also been studied in the context of electronic prescribing
(with Hope Hospital) and delegation
of authority (with Sinnott at Glasgow).
The associated work on other aspects of security is linked to the
Systems Architecture group and takes a longer term view.
applies abstract interpretation to security analysis,
investigates peer-to-peer security architectures, and
uses model-driven approaches to manage system security.
We will explore usability, privacy and policy-based
involvement will complement the user-based emphasis with
The goal is to achieve distributed
decision making, involving heterogeneous policy languages and authors.
The broad PERMIS user base and its integration into the National Grid
Service will provide fertile ground for this, as will
links with the health sector.
recently awarded €900,000 FP7 grant
"Trusted Architecture for Securely Shared Services" will explore
these directions in the health and employability domains.
Evidence of esteem
Organiser and PC chair of 2004 IFIP
CMS conference (Communications and Multi-media Security).
Keynote speech at First EuroPKI Workshop, Greece, 2004.
PC Chair for Second EuroPKI Workshop, 2005.
PC Chair for TERENA (Trans-European Research and Education Networking
Association) Conference, TNC2004.
Primary staff: D.J.Barnes, F.R.M.Barnese, R.de Lemos, T.R.Hopkins,
R.E.Jones (head), P.F.Linington, N.S.Ryan,
Associated staff: M.I.Kölling
Income £1,017,426; 23 research degrees awarded; 13.75 current students + 2 writing-up.
The group focuses on the
specification, design and implementation of computer systems, from the very
large to the very small,
being characterized by the interplay between theory and practice.
It has five main research themes:
modelling large-scale distributed systems;
automatic memory management ('garbage collection');
software dependability and testing.
The practical orientation of the group has resulted
in software tools to support the
development, execution, testing and debugging of software
systems, and the teaching of professional systems
development concepts and techniques.
There is a natural synergy between
academic research and industry;
international and industrial collaborations therefore underpin
the group's work
Members are active in
promoting research (e.g. in International SPACE workshop, EPSRC top-rated
MMnet network, European InterOp-NoE, etc.).
The Laboratory has a long-established reputation for
research into distributed systems, exemplified by the
on enterprise-scale systems,
on dependable systems, and
on mobile and ubiquitous systems.
work on modelling enterprise policies and contracts has
influenced standards for Open Distributed
Processing, particularly their conceptual framework for roles and viewpoints
[Linington:2-4]. His work on Model Driven Engineering
has evolved from the use of transformations to extract performance models
at the start of the period to aspect weaving [Linington:1].
work on dependable systems established a new approach to the
validation and synthesis of dependable software [deLemos:2].
He has analysed failures [deLemos:4] and rigorously studied
exception handling [deLemos:3] in dependable, component-based systems.
Funded by NCR, he has
applied work on artificial immune systems to anomaly detection
in ATMs [deLemos:1].
is the principal architect of the MobiComp infrastructure for
context-aware mobile systems [Ryan:1].
With AII members, he has applied techniques
from artificial immune systems to recognizing familiar contexts
His MobiComp infrastructure supports cultural heritage applications
through the FieldMap data collection and access tools [Ryan:2,4].
research concentrates on efficient garbage collection.
theory to practice, in order to improve the quality and performance of
modern garbage collectors.
He has formalized distributed garbage collection algorithms in an
implementation-independent manner, discovering omissions in the
published algorithm widely used by Java-RMI,
and proving corrections [Jones:2].
He studies the lifetime demographics of
objects in order to focus garbage collection effort most effectively. This work,
supported by three IBM Faculty Awards,
led to the Beltway GC framework, developed collaboratively with the Australian
National University and the Universities of Texas and Massachusetts [Jones:4],
and to a novel scheme for deriving programmer intention in order to
better manage Java objects [Jones:1].
Debugging garbage collectors is hard.
GCspy visualization framework
[Jones:3], developed in collaboration with Sun Microsystems, provides the GC
developer with an intuitive, scalable and high performance graphical view of
focus on abstractions and
implementations of concurrency in programming languages.
They are the principal designers of the occam-pi language,
which preserves the elegance and power of the occam concurrent programming
language yet adds dynamic asynchronous multiplexed communication from the
essential for the construction of modern software systems [Welch:3,4].
They show how concurrency abstractions can be built into languages
ensuring correctness (freedom from deadlock, livelock, race-hazard and
aliasing errors) yet still achieve very high performance.
focuses on implementation
of occam-pi [F.Barnes:2];
the effectiveness of their design strategy of numerous fine-grained processes
[F.Barnes:3] underpins the collaborative EPSRC TUNA project [Welch:1]
and the lightweight, multi-threading run-time operating system kernel of
EPSRC RMoX project [F.Barnes:1].
They are exploring design patterns and design tools for encouraging safe
parallel programming in their new
EPSRC CoSMoS project.
The correctness of many software systems can only be established through
concentrates on using testing
to improve the quality of
the numerical software that underpins most scientific
[Hopkins:2,3,4]. He focuses on the
implementation of parallel numerical algorithms to
solve partial differential equations describing
industrial processes [Hopkins:1].
develops tools and
techniques to support open, collaborative testing of widely-used
software libraries [D.Barnes:1,3], aiming both to
demonstrate improved quality through error detection, and to
provide open evidence of test coverage.
has worked on tool support for testing
distributed systems [Kölling:1]. His novel tools
are widely used to inculcate testing of
programs early in a programmer's career,
particularly in education [Kölling:3]. Starting a
systematic testing practice at this early stage
has been shown to influence
programmers' attitudes to the use of professional testing
tools later in their career.
The Systems Architecture group will continue to focus
its efforts on tools and techniques for the development
of reliable and efficient systems.
The EPSRC RMoX and CoSMoS projects will allow
to apply their
communicating processes approach to the design of operating systems
and complex systems.
The EPSRC LACE project will allow
to extend the Beltway work to yet more flexible GC schemes better tailored to
program behaviour by exploiting static and other off-line analyses.
aim to produce a toolset with capabilities
allowing them to extend their methodologies and techniques, testing
a far larger body of numerical and scientific codes.
BSSI (Norway) is funding
to investigate efficient usage of multicore processors in numerical
Evidence of esteem
Best paper awards, Communicating Process Architectures
Co-chair Latin American Symposium on Dependable Computing (LADC) 2003
and Programme Committee LADC 2005.
Algorithms Editor of Association of Computing Machinery: Transactions on
Mathematical Software (ACM TOMS).
Member of IFIP WG.2.5 on Numerical Software, elected 2003.
Distinguished Scientist, Association for Computing Machinery
Keynote Speaker, International Lisp Conference, Cambridge, 2007.
Three IBM Faculty Awards (2002-2004).
Honorary Fellow, University of Glasgow (2005).
Royal Society Industry Fellow, 2002.
Active participant in standardization via ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC7/WG19;
most recently Principal UK Expert to Kyoto meeting, 2006.
Member of International review of Simula Research Laboratory 2004;
coordinated report to Norwegian Research Council, ISBN 82-12-02017-7,
laid before Norwegian Parliament and referenced in debate.
Member of International Research Advisory Board for Australian CRC for
Enterprise Distributed Systems (previously DSTC), 2001, 2004.
Task group leader (TG7), EU InterOp Network of Excellence, 2005-2007.
Royal Society Industry Fellow, 2001.
Chair IT, Electronics and Communications Group (ITEC), Institute of Physics
Programme Committee Co-Chair: 6th International Symposium on
Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (VAST2005), Pisa, 2005.
Steering Committee Chair and PC member: International
Conference on Computer Applications and Quantitative Methods in Archaeology.
Invited lecture, 24th International Research Symposium, International Research
Centre for Japanese Studies Kyoto, Feb 2005
Member of IFIP WG 2.4: System Implementation Technologies,
Programme Committee Chair, Communicating Process Architectures
Vice-Chair (Models, Methods and Programming Languages), EuroPar 2003
Conference Co-Chair, CPA-2000, CPA-2007
Theoretical Computer Science
Primary staff: E.A.Boiten, O.Chitile, R.S.Gomeze,
S.M.Kahrs, A.M.King (head), S.J.Thompson
Associated staff: H.Bowman
Income £1,273,087; 12 research degrees awarded; 3.5 current students + 3 writing-up.
The TCS group
draws on foundational ideas
in computer science and applies them to practical problems in
programming languages, program development, verification and formal
It does this by developing tools, such as refactorers
and tracers, to underpin the program development cycle. It
also investigates diagnostic techniques such as
abstract interpretation and model checking [Bowman:3].
As well as investigating
the correctness of existing programs, it is developing refinement
techniques that systematically flesh out a specification to obtain
implementations correct by construction.
Specifications need to be abstract, referring to
idealized mathematical notions such as real numbers. Implementations
take into account resource bounds, and cannot
be expressed at the desired level of abstraction of initial
bridges this gap through
program development using
refinement rules [Boiten:2,3] to construct sequences,
and even take limits, of increasingly more correct specifications [Boiten:1].
Closely related to this is work on viewpoint consistency
applies refinement's dual, namely abstraction. For
logic programs he has developed abstraction techniques
[King:4] that infer classes of inputs for which a program
conforms to its specification.
reason about temporal properties of systems, specifically studying
logics (ITL) with the projection operator and showing, among other things,
how to axiomatise logical consequence within this system
For Haskell programs,
has developed the Hare refactoring tool [Thompson:3];
refactoring involves changing the design
of a system without changing its semantics, thus facilitating
program reuse and generalization.
has developed transformation schemes that facilitate
the reuse and generalization of logic programs [King:1];
these transformations preserve the logical semantics but yield
programs that are operationally more general.
program transformation in program development tools themselves
to construct portable tracing tools for
functional programs [Chitil:3].
In the world of rewriting, there is particular interest in verifying
properties such as termination and confluence. In the specific case of
infinitary rewriting, termination is replaced with convergence, and
has developed foundational proof techniques which show that this property
holds for various term metrics [Kahrs:1].
Types are useful for diagnosing errors in programs and are therefore
an important aspect of program development;
has developed methods for locating the cause of type errors in
type-inference-based programming languages [Chitil:4].
has explored the constraints that typing put on expressibility and
shown how untyped, but semantically sound, programs expressed in
PCF are equivalent to well-typed programs
has developed algorithms
that take advantage of the unique facilities offered by
declarative languages, showing that the pretty printing problem
can be solved elegantly by exploiting the cyclic definitions supported
by lazily evaluated languages [Chitil:1].
has shown how
tree balancing invariants can be realized merely using the type system
of Haskell to shift the cost enforcing balance to compile-time
has demonstrated how compile-time analysis techniques can be
implemented efficiently, using logical variables and synchronization
devices provided by logic languages [King:1-3].
Application of theory:
The utility of theory is tested by its application to real problems;
the group always aims to prove its outputs in the real world.
Examples are the work of
on refactoring [Thompson:3], application of model theory
to problems in visual languages [Thompson:1] and the transfer of
to the XML description of reactive
Over the next five years, the TCS group will focus its efforts on
reasoning, checking and verifying salient properties of programs, for
instance, by devising termination criteria for term-rewriting systems,
developing tracing tools for functional programs, and applying
model-checkers to real-time and imperative programs. Already, the
recently awarded €404,000 ProTest FP7 project will let
develop fault-finding tools for Erlang programs
so as to improve the reliability of service infrastructure software,
and an upcoming EPSRC-funded industrial secondment (EP/F012896) will allow
to apply model-checking to discover security vulnerabilities in C code.
Evidence of esteem
Guest editor: four special issues of Formal Aspects of
Program chair: Mathematics of Program Construction 2002
and program committee membership throughout period.
Program chair: Integrated Formal Methods 2004 and
PC member 2005, 2007.
Guest editor: special issue of Science of Computer Programming.
Royal Society Industry Fellow 2003
Advisory Committee Member: International Symposium on
Implementation and Application of Functional Languages, IFL.
Vice-chair IFIP WG6.1 (Architectures and Protocols for Distributed Systems).
IFIP Steering Committee member for conferences FMOODS; FORTE/PSTV; TESTCOM
EPSRC Fellowship in Theoretical Computer Science 2006-2009
Associate Editor: Higher-Order and Symbolic Computation.
Editorial Advisor: journal Theory and Practice of Logic
Programming (formally Journal of Logic Programming).
Editor, Book reviews, Journal of Functional Programming.
Chair: ACM Special Interest Group on Programming Languages
(SIGPLAN) workshops in 'Functional and Declarative Programming in
Education' 2002 and 2005.
Invited speaker: 5th International Summer School on Advanced
Functional Programming (AFP 2004), 2004.
Member of the International Scientific Committee of Institut de
Recherche sur les Composants Logiciels et Matériels pour l'Information
et la Communication Avancée (IRCICA) Lille, France, 2005-8.
Chair of Grand Challenge 6: Dependable Systems Evolution.
Good administrative support is essential
in making sustainable and effective use of our research resources. The
University has a well provisioned and supportive central research office,
which we augment within the laboratory
to give researchers rapid and continuous support in managing
their projects. We have, for eight years, provided a
full-time research administrator, who promulgates funding
opportunities, supports the grant application process and assists in
managing projects. The research administrator also
organizes postgraduate research training
events, such as induction activities and a poster fair for second-year
students. They take the lead in publicizing
activities on the web and via a research newsletter.
This research support complements the normal support
for staff by the departmental general and financial
The ubiquitous technical computing infrastructure for the laboratory
is a balance between large Unix servers and regularly
updated desktop and laptop facilities. All staff benefit from a rolling
replacement programme, ensuring no personal machine is more than three
years old, and all research postgraduates are provided with a new
computer on arrival. There are also
more specialized resources. There is a flexible networking test
bed (with dedicated routers, switches and servers, for constructing
test configurations) and, for larger-scale experiments, the Laboratory
is a member of PlanetLab. For robotics, there is a laboratory
with platforms ranging from a large Pioneer
DX3 with many sensors down to a substantial holding of
experimental kits. For parallel processing, there is a 32-processor
cluster, primarily associated with
has recently been awarded two MacPro dual-quad-core systems for his
computational biology work.
All these facilities
are integrated by fixed and wireless network provision.
This departmental technical core is supported by a five-person
technical development team who, in addition to their system management
responsibilities, support short-term research initiatives,
or projects in the start-up phase before funding and dedicated
research staff are in place. This team is widely known for the high
quality of their support for the UK Mirror Service.
The campuses are connected by a high capacity
network infrastructure and by gigabit access to the region and the
The University Library holds a broad collection of books, conference
proceedings and journals. The emphasis is on
access in electronic form, accounting for 60% of CS library spend this year
Early career researchers
All newly appointed academic staff and Research Fellows
undertake the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education
(PGCHE), equipping them for the teaching and research aspects of
their future careers. The PGCHE covers techniques for
research and research management and provides a forum for new researchers
to interact with peers and so achieve a broader understanding
of the approaches prevalent in different disciplines. This
has stimulated interdisciplinary collaborations
within the University, e.g. with staff in Biosciences.
The laboratory has a policy of limiting the load placed
on new staff, giving them the headroom necessary to develop their
careers. This is not just to attend
the PGCHE, but provides a generous allowance of
time for development of research ideas and preparing funding bids
to sustain their research in the longer term.
Each appointee has a mentor
who assists and advises them in formulating their plans. The head of
the research group concerned monitors this process and
provides more strategic advice.
New staff are given priority when departmental research
bursaries are allocated, so that they gain experience of
supervision as soon as possible.
In the Laboratory's load model,
given a substantial baseline time allocation (450hrs) to pursue their ideas;
they supplement this by attracting additional resources or producing
outputs and funding bids.
All staff are given a basic budget of £500/year
to cover some travel and smaller
items of equipment, supplemented by bids against the general travel and
Research-active staff are strongly encouraged to take
study leave (one term after seven) to gain access to new ideas and
foster external collaborations.
The Laboratory maintains a strong
postgraduate research culture, and has allocated substantial funding
over the last decade to provide bursaries, ranging from payment
of fees to full support. The Laboratory has an
earmarked bursary fund, and has
of the 127 students admitted since 2001.
Research postgraduates participate in a broad range of career
development and professional skills training.
training provides subject-specific skills, complemented
by an extensive portfolio of Robert's-funded provision at the Faculty level.
are encouraged to engage in national or international events such
as summer schools and solicit feedback on their ideas while in a
In the TCS area, Kent is the leading member of the
TCS-SOUP (Theoretical Computer Science for SOuth-eastern Universities
PhD students) postgraduate training consortium.
Students have a budget of up to £500 per year to support
conference travel, and are encouraged to publish regularly
as soon as results allow.
Beyond the normal academic induction process, new students
engage in social team-building events, such as an
outward-bound weekend, to strengthen
links and encourage mutual support within each cohort.
In addition to their supervisor (or supervisors,
co-supervision being common in interdisciplinary
areas), each student is supported by a supervisory panel; two
further academics join the supervisor in offering advice and
reviewing the student's work
at key points. Panel members
assess the mini-thesis, a mandatory progression hurdle after
the first year of research. The panel is an essential
element in the monitoring process
from induction to submission, making a formal report on
progress every nine months.
Group activities are coordinated via termly meetings of a Research and
This is the main internal management tool, where group heads meet to
contribute to planning and ensure the smooth running of
the whole research process.
The research management processes are
lightweight to maximize research productivity, reflecting
the University's commitment in reviewing its procedures to reduce
Individual researchers meet with the Department Head and
annually to discuss plans and ensure that individual
goals are ambitious, yet achievable, opportunities for collaboration
are followed up and resources are deployed effectively.
To maintain coherence of the department's research activities,
research elements are included in the regular laboratory staff meetings;
these cover opportunities, changes of process and
showcase spots to raise general awareness of
individual project activity.
The department produces annual updates to its research plans, which
are reviewed by, and inform, planning at the Faculty
and University levels.
The Laboratory uses its pool of industrial contacts as a sounding
board for research plans. The
range of issues is too diverse for a single industrial
panel to cover; invited groups from our
contacts are selected to discuss particular strategic issues,
ensuring continued relevance of research.