Perdita Stevens works on empowering non-computing specialists
School of Informatics’ Perdita Stevens and Steffen Zschaler, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at King’s College London are spearheading a new academic and industry network that aims to increase the UK’s ability to develop high-quality software needed for economic success.
Much of daily life is run by computer software, but the availability of skilled software engineers has not kept pace. The network, MDENet, has been funded for three years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to bring together research and expertise in ways of equipping people who use software, but are not computer specialists, to contribute to software development. This approach is known as Model-Driven Engineering (MDE) – a software development model that focuses on creating and exploiting domain models and programming languages focused on specific problem domains. In effect it widens the range of people who can design and adapt software from specialist software engineers to end-users.
As Steffen Zschaler explains there are multiple benefits of this approach. Model-Driven Engineering enables a separation of responsibilities: software engineers can focus on the core technical aspects of a software system while domain experts and stakeholders (e.g. business analysts, scientists, managers, etc.) can express relevant domain knowledge, rules, and requirements in a way that can be directly interpreted by a computer. This is the basis for true collaboration between software developers and domain experts and software users.
Given that, by some predictions, by 2030 1.6 million ICT professional jobs will need to be filled in the European Union alone, we need to use innovative ways of getting more people involved in software development. Model-Driven Engineering is one such approach and MDENet will work to increase awareness of Model-Driven Engineering and make it easier for interested individuals and organisations to benefit from it.
Model-driven engineering has huge potential to make software development more dependable, more efficient and - crucially - easier. I'm excited to be part of this network which will help to overcome barriers and bring it to more companies."
The new network will bring together researchers currently working separately in industry and universities, improve training and work to increase awareness of the success of MDE. The founding members include King’s College London, the University of Edinburgh, the University of York, Keele University, Swansea University, the University of Leicester, the University of Oxford and the Francis Crick Institute, together with industrial partners including BT and Smith & Nephew, and the Institute of Coding.
Membership will be open to any individual or organisation interested in Model-Driven Engineering. In particular, the network aims to grow a broad community of software developers and domain stakeholders. Membership will, thus, be of interest to software developers as well as scientists, engineers, consultants, business analysts and many others.