Research into automating software engineering anticipated to have a major impact on the IT industry and beyond.
School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science lecturer, Dr. John R. Woodward, collaborators from the Universities of Lancaster, Brunel and Hertfordshire, with industry partners, have received a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for a research project that has the potential to affect a revolution in how software is developed and created.
Software is now at the heart of almost everything we do in the world. It remains largely handmade and as such, it is prone to defects. Testing uncovers only a fraction of software defects with undetected bugs laying dormant, sometimes for years.
When these defects emerge in software systems the safety and business consequences can be severe. Software failures and their damaging consequences are regularly reported in the press, with TSB bank and NHS Wales just two of many recent high profile organisations to experience such failures. Finding and fixing defects in software has been an intransigent problem over many years. The traditional approach to the problem relies on finding defects during testing with developers manually fixing those defects afterwards.
‘Essentially our research aims to predict bugs before they become known by using predictive analytics on existing code’, Dr. Woodward said about the project. He added, ‘This grant represents the latest in a string of grants in the direction of automating software engineering.’
Woodward hopes that one of the outputs of his research will be a defect fixing tool – ‘Fixie’ - which will support developers in their daily coding activities, offering a greater number of acceptable fixes to the software, making these fixes available earlier in the software development cycle than previous attempts at automated repair, and identifying a wider pool of defects.
Working in collaboration with Microsoft, Bloomberg, Sky and TESM, Dr. Woodward commented, ‘our approach is set to have a major impact both on the way code is written in the first place, and how it is maintained in the long-term.’
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