Theory-oriented Software Engineering

Topic Description

Software engineering is a discipline that has been shaped by over 50 years of practice. Driven primarily by the needs of industry, a theoretical basis has been slow to develop. Yet, cogent theories of software engineering may improve the maturity of the discipline, placing it alongside other engineering disciplines whose theories are apparent.
We have developed Problem Oriented Engineering (POE, see background reading), an homogenous framework that sees engineering as a broad and multi-disciplinary topic, and is design theoretic so that design and not just product is the focus of attention. As such, everything from cyber-physical systems to socio-technical is addressable.
POE has been validated as delivering value to industry through many joint projects over the past 10 years; the research portfolio includes, General Dynamics, UK, Greenpeace, United Nations FAO. Current projects are with Siemens and Osram.
POE is a candidate theory of software engineering. Projects related to this topic will consider further development and validation of POE as such theory. Of particular interest are extensions towards organisational change, multi-stakeholder problem tangles, and the tailoring and adaptation of software development processes.

Skills Required:

Appreciating the beauty and power of logics and having a good theoretical background will equip you to address this topic. Ideally you should have a background in Computing/Software Engineering/Information Systems, possibly with a Masters level qualification or equivalent professional experience. Previous experience of academic research would be advantageous.

Background Reading:

Johnson, P., Ekstedt, M., & Jacobson, I. (2012). Where's the theory for software engineering?. IEEE software, (5), 96.

Hall, J.G, & Rapanotti, L. (2016). A design theory for software engineering. Technical Report TR2016/01, Department of Computing and Communications, The Open University, UK.

Hall, J.G, & Rapanotti, L. (2015). Towards a Design-Theoretic Characterisation of Software Development Process Models. In Proceedings of the 4th SEMAT Workshop on a General Theory of Software Engineering, Florence, Italy. IEEE Press. Hosted by the 37th International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE 2015).

Hall, J.G, & Rapanotti, L. (2013). Beauty in software engineering. IEEE Computer, 46(2):85–87.

Hall, J.G, & Rapanotti, L. (2012). Software engineering as the design theoretic transformation of software problems. Innovations in Systems and Software Engineering, 8(3):175–193.

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Jon Hall


Lucia Rapanotti