Professor Martin Shepperd is the 2022 Tage Erlander visiting professor
Interview with Martin Shepperd, professor of Computer Science at Brunel University, London, who is the holder of 2022 Tage Erlander visiting professorship. Professor Shepperd spends his time as visiting professor at the Division of Interaction Design and Software Engineering, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, in Gothenburg.
How would you describe your research area?
– It has evolved over the years from being purely software engineering to being more involved with data. My background is as a computer scientist, initially I actually worked for a bank on software development and became interested in how to improve the practice of software development within companies. This led to the idea of decision-making in software engineering being based upon evidence; a position that is becoming more and more data-centric. Since then, there have been rapid developments in data science – in understanding, mastering, contributing to new ways of modelling and analysing data – it‘s been a really exciting area to work in.
– Of course, once you start to look at the data, things might not be as simple as they appear. What appears to be a simple relationship of using a particular technique to get a particular result turns out to be far more subtle. Software systems may comprise hundreds of millions of lines of code, written by hundreds or thousands of people over a considerable periods of time, in rapidly changing settings. We need to know how to model that effectively.
What did your collaboration with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering look like?
– Well, I have known a number of colleagues in my research area from the Division of Software Engineering for some years. Plus, of course, the Universities of Gothenburg and Chalmers are a leading centre of expertise. Although I was not actually formally collaborating with the Division, I had made two research visits to the universities as part of a research review process in 2018 and 2019. Plus I’d previously been an examiner for a PhD student. So, I felt that there was a strong connection.
– When the Swedish Research Council, VR, announced that I was to be the 2022 Tage Erlander visiting professor I was honoured and delighted. This enabled a nine month appointment from January to the end of September 2022. I was delighted. It was in the in the midst of the pandemic so it was nice to have something positive!
– Presently, I am mainly living in Gothenburg. I have a guest apartment which is a twenty-minute walk to the Lindholmen Campus so incredibly convenient. I was really keen to physically come to Gothenburg and avoid becoming the “Zoom professor”. I think meeting people and getting to socialise really facilitates ongoing relationships. Research isn’t something that goes into nice and tight little boxes, it is not like everything will finish in the end of September when my old Department at Brunel University London expects me to return! I want to continue the relationship with Gothenburg and it is much easier to do so if you know the people and can build a really solid foundation to maintain things.
What are your hopes for your time as the Tage Erlander visiting professor?
– From a research point of view, it is an opportunity to be very focused and work intensively; that’s valuable. It is also an opportunity to do specific things, there is some real expertise in Bayesian modelling in this department so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate and learn. Hopefully I can contribute as well so that it’s a reciprocal process.
– Another opportunity is working with Volvo Cars on a very large data set relating to their software development. This is an example where research can hopefully be of direct practical benefit.
– An example which is pure serendipity was when I was flying back to Gothenburg from London, returning after a weekend, and I sat next to somebody who turned out to be a research engineer at SKF. This led to visit and hopefully a new collaboration. It’s an example of how a simple chat can turn into something much bigger!
– I suppose next thing is to grow the connections with Gothenburg. I work in a research lab at Brunel University in London and I want to strengthen the ties between my lab and the work here. I very much hope that I can encourage my colleagues here to visit London and vice versa. I’m not sure why, but over the years I’ve had many connections with Swedish researchers and I’ve been able to visit other colleagues at Lund and Blekinge. It’s great to be able to continue this.
– But I’d like to finish by saying how hospitable and welcoming everyone has been. I’m having a fantastic time here in Gothenburg and sadly the time is racing by far too fast. So a big thank you to you all!
Interview: Catharina Jerkbrant, June 2022
Richard Torkar, Head of Department, Dept. of Computer Science and Engineering – how would you describe the opportunity to have Martin Shepperd as the holder of Tage Erlander visiting professor, placed at University of Gothenburg?
– Prof. Martin Shepperd is one of the most renowned researchers in software engineering and, especially, in empirical aspects of software engineering. For the first time ever Tage Erlander guest professorship was awarded to the computer science area, and I personally feel that there was no one better than Martin to take on this honour.
– His time with us have been great. He’s interacted with people at the department, and he’s been directly involved in several studies, some in connection with our industry partners. We’re looking forward to continuing this collaboration when Martin goes back to his position at Brunel University.
The decision of the Swedish Research Council:
"The 2022 Tage Erlander visiting professorship has been awarded Martin Shepperd, professor in Computer Science at Brunel University, UK. During his time in Sweden, professor Martin Shepperd will be active mainly at the University of Gothenburg.
The Tage Erlander visiting professorship is awarded to an internationally prominent researcher in natural and engineering sciences. Researchers eligible for nomination in the 2022 call for the visiting professorship had to be active within one or several of the following areas: mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering, systems and electrical engineering, computer science, computational mathematics, data science and statistics, mathematics."