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September 2011


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Sam Malek <[log in to unmask]>
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Sam Malek <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 28 Sep 2011 16:08:44 -0400
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GMU Software Engineering Seminar

Speaker: Lionel C. Briand

Revised Title: Useful Software Engineering Research: Leading a Double-Agent

Date/Time: Thursday, 9/29/2011 @ 12pm

Location: 4201, Engineering Building

Host: Jeff Offutt

Food: Pizza/Soda

Revised Abstract:

Though in essence an engineering discipline, software engineering research
has always been struggling to demonstrate impact. This is reflected in part
by the funding challenges that the discipline faces in many countries, the
difficulties we have to attract industrial participants to our conferences,
and the scarcity of papers reporting industrial case studies.

There are clear historical reasons for this, for example the fact that
software engineering branched off from computer science and applied
mathematics only a few decades ago. But we nevertheless need, as a
community, to question our research paradigms and peer evaluation processes
in order to improve the situation. We also need, as other engineering fields
before us, to emancipate ourselves from the scientific disciplines we
originate from. Engineering research is focused on innovation and impact on
society, and is inherently very different from research in natural sciences
or mathematics.

From a personal standpoint, relevance and impact are concerns that I have
been struggling with for a long time, which eventually led me to leave a
comfortable academic position and a research chair to work in
industry-driven research. I will use—some people might say abuse—this
keynote address to share my personal, and sometimes provocative reflections
on the matter.

I will base my talk on concrete research project examples to convey why we
need more inductive research, that is, research working from specific
observations in real settings to broader generalizations and theories. Among
other things, the examples will show how a more thorough understanding of
practice and closer interactions with practitioners can profoundly influence
the definition of research problems, and the development and evaluation of
solutions to these problems. Furthermore, these examples will illustrate
why, to a large extent, useful research is necessarily multidisciplinary to
reach comprehensive solutions.

Such research paradigm has however a profound impact on how research is
organized, conducted, and evaluated. I will therefore address issues
regarding its implementation in our academic community and show how our own
biases can make our research even more disconnected from reality, thus
undermining our very own interests.

On a more humorous note, the title hints at the fact that being a scientist
in software engineering and aiming at having impact on practice often
entails leading two parallel careers and impersonate different roles to
peers and partners.

Lionel C. Briand is heading software verification and validation activities
at Simula Research Laboratory, Norway, where he is leading the newly
established Certus research center and projects in collaboration with
industrial partners. He is also a professor at the University of Oslo
(Norway). Before that, he was on the faculty of the department of Systems
and Computer Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, where he was
full professor and held the Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Software
Quality Engineering. He has also been the software quality engineering
department head at the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software
Engineering, Germany, and worked as a research scientist for the Software
Engineering Laboratory, a consortium of the NASA Goddard Space Flight
Center, CSC, and the University of Maryland, USA. Lionel has been on the
program, steering, or organization committees of many international, IEEE
and ACM conferences.

He is the coeditor-in-chief of Empirical Software Engineering (Springer) and
is a member of the editorial boards of Systems and Software Modeling
(Springer) and Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability (Wiley). He
was on the board of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering from 2000 to
2004. Lionel was elevated to the grade of IEEE Fellow for his work on the
testing of object-oriented systems. His research interests include:
model-driven development, testing and verification, search-based software
engineering, and empirical software engineering.

Sam Malek, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Computer Science
George Mason University