22 Jan 2009

OU’s Centre for Computing Research reveals the Future - Today

The national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) has confirmed that The Open University’s Centre for Research in Computing (CRC) is one of the UK’s leading centres for internationally significant research.
CRC leapt firmly into the top 20,achieving joint 16th place, alongside the universities of Bristol, Bath, York and Aberystwyth.*
CRC brings together key teams from the Department of Computing, the OU’s Knowledge Media Institute (KMI) and its Institute of Educational Technology (IET) to develop and deliver distinctive, cutting edge research in software and processes that underpin knowledge management, communication, learning and interactions among humans and machines.
The main successes for CRC have been achieved through focusing research in three priority areas:-
• Software Engineering and Design
• Language, Multimedia and Knowledge Technologies
• Human-Centred Computing
Professor Darrel Ince, Head of the Department of Computing at The Open University is rightly proud of the Centre’s achievements.
“The work we do ranges from designing safety crucial software that protects systems in aircraft and nuclear power stations to helping people condense and make sense of the vast amount of information available on the Internet.
“To take Human-Centred Computing as an example. It is an important area of study because the average home has 30 different computers in it today, from dishwashers and DVD players to Sky+ boxes. Understanding how we interact with these systems will lead to crucial advancements in both technology and user engagement in the future. One main strand of investigation concerns computers that people might wear; devices that elderly people might use to navigate safely around the house, for example.
“Our RAE success comes from three main factors. Firstly, The Open University has provided us with first class support, investment and resources. Secondly, we have an exceptional team of people working in this research centre. Finally, as well as responsibilities and resources, researchers are given room to take genuine risks, and if these lead to a dead-end or a different result, then they are encouraged to try again. People are genuinely empowered in such an environment.“
In the next 12 months, CRC will be looking to build on and expand the successful research in the existing three key areas as well as looking at inter-disciplinary research with other research groups at The Open University such as those in Art History and Philosophy, and Health and Social Care - where life course challenges are a core research topic (
An exciting piece of future research includes a proposal to explore how virtual worlds such as ‘Second Life’ can be used to develop the social skills of autistic children. The growing e-knowledge platforms of the OU ( also draw from and are informed by significant elements of CRC research.
* According to the Times Higher Table of Excellence

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