ITU professor: Software research must stay connected to the real world
Software engineering researchers must make an effort to stay in close contact with end-users, says recently appointed Professor in Software Engineering at the IT University of Copenhagen, Andrzej Wasowski. On Thursday, December 1, he will give his inaugural professorial lecture on the significance of software research in 2016.
“What is software engineering research good for in 2016?” Andrzej Wasowski asks rhetorically in the title of his inaugural lecture. The short answer to that question, he says, is "everything". In our digital society, we rely on software to build apps, IT systems and services. Software engineering researchers work with development principles and tools that help programmers to perform their work more efficiently.
The big challenge of the field, he believes, is that few among the general public understand what the software engineering really is. This makes it difficult to attract enough young people to the field. Therefore, software researchers must make an extra effort to maintain a close relationship with end-users and avoid getting lost in abstract problems.
"Within software engineering research, we are dealing with underlying principles. It is very tempting to work on this abstract level, but by doing so, we are cutting ourselves away from specific problems, companies, projects and programmers. The ongoing challenge for the field is to remain in close contact with them," he says.
Andrzej Wasowski’s ambition is to make a difference for other people through his research. For this reason, he has during his career moved away from a very theoretical focus towards issues that are closer to the end-users, through partnerships with the industry and research on functioning systems.
Previously, he has helped to develop tools for bug-finding in the Linux kernel, and in early 2017, he will begin work on the brand new research project ROSIN. In this project, he and colleagues at ITU will develop software components for quality assurance in the robot industry together with a number of European companies and institutes.
We are developing too much software
Another challenge of the software field, according to Andrzej Wasowski, is that we are simply developing too much software today compared to the number of programmers who can maintain the code.
»"The amount of code is almost doubled every year. In the physical world, this would correspond to building a new city the size of Copenhagen every year, rather than maintaining the old buildings. The problem is that we are throwing away old code because we do not have the resources to maintain it. Obviously, it is a good idea to throw away bad code, but it is not wise to run forward so quickly that you lose the human capital and creativity inherent in the old code," he says.
The amount of code is almost doubled every year. In the physical world, this would correspond to building a new city the size of Copenhagen every year, rather than maintaining the old buildings. «
Andrzej Wasowski would like to see more research on how to modernize software instead of simply replacing it. This would particularly benefit the financial sector and the public sector, where IT systems can have a long life.
"In some parts of the financial sector, they are using systems that are up to 40 years old, and it is necessary to have programmers around who can repair and make changes to them. Luckily, more and more researchers and companies are working on techniques to make the old systems more modern, for example, by bridging the gap between old and new technologies so that young programmers can understand them. This is one of the challenges I look forward to working with in the future," he concludes.
Andrzej Wasowski will give his inaugural lecture 'What Is Software Engineering Research Good for in 2016?' on Thursday, December 1 pm. 14-15 in Auditorium 3 of the ITU. All are welcome and registration is not required. Read more about the lecture here.
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