The University of Southampton

New British Computer Society President is Professor in ECS

Published: 1 November 2006

Professor Nigel Shadbolt of ECS takes up office today (Wednesday 1 November) as President of the British Computer Society, with an agenda of public engagement for his year at the helm of the organization.

Nigel Shadbolt is Professor of Artificial Intelligence in ECS and Director of the Advanced Knowledge Technologies Interdisciplinary Research Centre. He is one of four founding Directors of the new Web Science Research Initiative, a joint collaboration between MIT and the University of Southampton to establish a new scientific discipline that will research the factors that have made the Web so successful and enable it to develop in the future in a way that we better understand.

Writing in the BCS Yearbook, Professor Shadbolt states his determination to engage and inspire the public on the subject of IT and computing. He points to the poor public image of the subject, particularly in the context of high-profile IT failures: ‘This failure of public engagement is potentially catastrophic for any IT-centric knowledge-based economy,’ he says.

‘We build systems that operate at staggering levels of scale and complexity. They use technologies that a few years ago existed only as laboratory prototypes. They use software systems that represent tens of thousands of person years of human ingenuity and endeavour. There is so much here to convey because it is always a human story of personal and collective triumphs and tragedies, insight and genius, heroic achievements and failures.’

Outlining a number of urgent requirements on which to base new initiatives with schools, the public, the media, business and the public sector, Professor Shadbolt looks forward to a year of evangelizing the concept of computational thinking—‘IT for all’, he says, adding: ‘This is a fitting challenge for our Society in its 50th year.’

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