Interdisciplinary Design and Evaluation of Dependability (INDEED)

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Computer Science

Abstract

Computers increasingly play vital roles in organisations - e.g., hospitals or factories - which thus become computer-based systems . The dependability of these systems is a major societal concern. In response, EPSRC funded the Dependability Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (DIRC) between City, Edinburgh, Lancaster, Newcastle and York universities. DIRC was based on the premise that dependability must be studied not as a purely technical issue, but as a socio-technical property of the combination of a computing system with the environments in which it is procured, developed and used. DIRC thus assembled a world class interdisciplinary team of computer scientists, psychologists, sociologists and statisticians, which has achieved substantial results through a rare degree of collaboration between engineering and social sciences.INDEED will build on DIRC's results to address important challenges in extending these results and combining them with current practices, to ensure a real, long-term impact on the design and evaluation of dependable systems. It will apply a multidisciplinary approach in four major research activities:Timing and Structure. This work will further develop DIRC's time band concept for reasoning about processes that unfold on different time scales, from microseconds to days, within a system. We will define an appropriate descriptive language, and extend it to deal with probabilistic relationships between events in different time bands. We will then build a software tool to use in case studies, to validate the use of time bands in structuring dependable systems. Adaptation and diversity. This activity will help designers and assessors of socio-technical systems to address some of the hard problems caused by the difficulty of predicting how people adapt to computers. We will give designers greatly enhanced abilities to analyse quantitatively, control and exploit the phenomena of adaptation and diversity, which although often recognised in informal terms need more thorough and formal treatment. Our focus will be data-rich, knowledge intensive activities that are increasingly supported by automation.Responsibility and trust. Inappropriate allocation or perception of responsibilities, and inappropriate levels of trust in the various system components, are important causes of failure in computer-based systems. This work will support the modelling, management and analysis of responsibility and trust during the design and deployment of such systems, by developing the necessary notations, techniques and software tools.Confidence and Uncertainty in dependability cases. A case is the web of evidence and reasoning through which system dependability is assessed. DIRC defined confidence-based cases, which describe dependability claims together with the degree of confidence that can be had in them. We will produce methods for detailing and structuring cases, using the results of work on time bands; guidance for using more diverse evidence and arguments towards increasing confidence; new interdisciplinary understanding of the factors causing people to trust a case less (or more) than its contents warrant.These activities are integrated into a coherent programme of work. An integration mechanism is the use of real-world case studies where we work with our partners in the project (Voca, British Energy, CAA and Qinetiq) to challenge and validate our research.

Publications

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Description The research was concerned with finding a way to represent responsibilities in complex systems involving different organisations. The rationale for the work was that many system failures are 'responsibility failures' where people or organisations fail to discharge a responsibility as expected by other agents in the system. By explicitly representing and analysing these responsibilities, we hoped to find system vulnerabilities that could be addressed before system failure occurred.

The basis representation was deliberately simplified to make it readily accessible to industrial users. We model a socio- technical system using three constructs - responsibilities, agents who are assigned these responsibilities and resources used by these agents. The notation was developed originally using the domain of civil contingency management where we modelled flood and nuclear emergency planning. We have developed an approach based on HAZOPS to analyse responsibility models and to detect areas of potential vulnerability.
Exploitation Route An interesting and unexpected application of the work was in supporting the derivation of software requirements for packaged software systems where the system functionality is pre-defined and the primary requirements are information requirements defining the information used by agents interacting with the system.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

 
Description EPSRC
Amount £14,000 (GBP)
Funding ID Univ. St Andrews-Pathways to Impact 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
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