Society-oriented software design

28 July 2017

Professor Jon Whittle


Professor Jon Whittle, Dean Faculty of IT

He is a world-renowned expert in software engineering and human-computer interaction (HCI), with a particular interest in IT for social good. Prof. Whittle is an experienced research leader, having been the Principal Investigator of projects totaling over £8M (approx. $A16m) in recent years.

  • achieve excellence at a world top 100 university
  • be part of an internationally recognised faculty
  • pioneer software engineering research to impact society

The Faculty of Information Technology is building a new world-leading team on society-oriented software design under the direct leadership of the Faculty Dean. Software pervades society; yet, as Grady Booch has said, we must come to understand that “every line of code we write has a moral and ethical implication”. Society-oriented software design is a new paradigm for ensuring that as software is designed and developed, proper consideration is given to its impact on society and how it reflects the values of key stakeholders.

For example, in a smart hospital setting, how would one design for the value of compassion so that new software treats patients in a compassionate way? Or, in designing new software technologies for developing countries, how would the software be designed to embed existing values of community cohesion or respect for elders?

Researchers have developed theories of human values, such as Schwartz’s model, which captures common human values such as trust, family, health, community, sustainability, and power. However, existing software design methods do not provide a way for values to be tracked and monitored throughout a software development process. As a result, when an organization, such as a non-profit, commissions a new software system, it cannot be sure that the organization’s values is respected in the final product.

As a PhD student, you will work within the new team and will take a case study approach – by shadowing large software system projects with a societal impact, you will develop new software tools and techniques for embedding values in software design, and will evaluate these techniques on real-world case studies.

The Opportunity for PhD Students

Stipend and tuition fees scholarships are available for two PhD students to join the team. You will investigate the notion of society-oriented software design by investigating how values can be embedded in software design. You will develop new tools, methodologies and techniques and evaluate these on case studies of large software systems.

The Candidate Requirements:

The ideal candidate will have a strong background both in software development methods and practices as well as knowledge and interest in the socio-technical aspects of new software systems, such as how to design systems that fit into existing practices.

The successful candidate will have knowledge of and/or be able to learn quickly about:

  • Participatory design methods
  • Human-computer interaction (from a socio-technical viewpoint)
  • Software development skills (including requirements engineering, software design methodologies – both agile and plan-driven, programming)
  • Qualitative research methods, e.g., observational studies, interviewing, ethnography.

Candidates need to be eligible to undertake a PhD in the Faculty of IT at Monash University. Please check your eligibility on the How to apply page and if you meet the criteria please submit an Expression of Interest.

Read more:

Maria Angela Ferrario, William Simm, Stephen Forshaw, Adrian Gradinar, Marcia Tavares Smith, Ian Smith: Values-first SE: research principles in practice. International Conference on Software Engineering, 2016, pp. 553-562

Contact name: Professor Jon Whittle