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Interdisciplinary Research Themes

The Structure of a system can contribute to its dependability, understandability and its ability to evolve. In this Research Theme, DIRC participants have studied the structure of both human organisations and technical systems (and the way they interact). The Structure page also provides information about the new book on this work.

One characteristic of computer-based systems is that they are required to function at many different time scales (from microseconds or less to hours or more). Time is clearly a crucial notion in the specification (or behavioural description) of computer-based systems, but it has a wide range of technical, social and psychological properties. The Timeliness theme explores this rich set of issues.

An essential element of dependability is protective redundancy, or fault tolerance. But the risk of common failures among redundant elements needs to be contained by pursuing diversity. The Diversity theme studies the advantages and difficulties of pursuing diversity both in systems and processes, including the socio-techncial processes that develop technical and socio-technical systems. The work includes empirical studies as well as probabilistic modelling.

In the Responsibility theme, we explore one of the major differences between people and computers: people can be given or assume responsibilities and computers can't. Many system failures are, at least, partly a consequence of responsibility failures. To reduce responsibility-related failures, we need to develop a deeper understanding of these failures, to understand how responsibilities interact in complex computer-based systems and to invent ways of making responsibilities explicit in models that can be used to inform system design.

Risk in computer-based systems is more heterogeneous and difficult to capture than conventional systems because they are deeply embedded in social and organizational contexts. The Risk theme emphasizes the need to consider issues of Risk perception since different participants in an organization have very different perception of the existence and severity of Risks. We also consider mechanisms for handling Risk arising for the ongoing process of change in organizational systems.

 

 
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