Verification and Testing Research Group
The group was established in mid 1980's, initially called Thr@Sh (Theory @ Sheffield) and then after some changes became Verification and Testing. Some more details about VT's history can be found here.
The group is internationally known for a broad range of research topics its members are involved with.
Scientific interests are in the study of specification and development, of models and calculi for software systems and programming languages, in formal analysis, logic and algebraic computational models and theories, mechanistic and automated reasoning. An important role is played by understanding the computation in both conventional and unconventional forms, within the current computability limits or beyond, including biological and physical computational systems. The research on higher order refinement techniques applied to model driven architectures (Derrick, Struth, Simons), Erlang verification (Derrick), refinement of state based systems (Derrick) and molecular computation (Gheorghe) have secured funding from EPSRC. Workshops on hypercomputation (Stannett), graduate training courses (Struth), networks on refinement (Derrick), type theory (Stannett), hypercomputation (Stannett), unconventional computational models (Gheorghe) have received support from various sources - EPSRC, EU, British Council.
The group has an international standing in software testing, developing coherent theories of testing that could form the basis of practical testing methods for validating complex systems. We are interested in building effective test sets in an automated fashion, exploiting both formal techniques and evolutionary methods for searching complex test solution spaces, but we place a major emphasis on practical testing methods which are suitable for real life systems. The research on testing has been supported by research grants on testing Erlang (Derrick) and evolutionary testing (McMinn). Most of the VT members have been involved in running the testing based on formal methods network (FORTEST), McMinn successfully secured funding to run two editions of the testing workshop Taic Part. The EPSRC projects on reverse-engineering based on grammar inference (Bogdanov, Holcombe and McMinn, Bogdanov, Holcombe) have also important testing elements. Long-term industrial funding has come from DaimlerChrysler who have funded Holcombe's work on testing in the Department since 1997.
The group has shown an interest on the broader range of Software Engineering problems. The work covers a wide range of topics including methodologies - object-oriented, agile, programming concepts and paradigms, data bases and the theory underpinning them. An important component, in recent years, is represented by the Empirical Software Engineering theme that involves both a scientific and an engineering dimension. Research on object-oriented methodology (Simons, Holcombe, Stannett, Bogdanov), and agile approaches (Holcombe) has been supported by EPSRC and EU grants, respectively. Interdisciplinary research, with work psychologists, on technical and human aspects of software engineering processes has been funded by EPSRC (Holcombe, Cowling, Gheorghe) and the investigation of the use of open source software in public administration has been supported by an EU grant (Holcombe, North). The Department was awarded two IBM Eclipse grants for its pioneering work on Genesys.
The VT group has an interest in expanding its investigation beyond the comfort zone of its members' current research by exploring new interdisciplinary areas. Holcombe research covering the use of agent-based methodology and techniques, rooted in formal models from concurrent and distributed systems, has received a widely international recognition. Applications of this methodology in modelling large complex systems in biology (molecular, tissue, social insects etc), economics, geography have received financial support from various funding bodies (EU, EPSRC, BBSRC, Leverhulme, Royal Academy of Engineerig) or industrial partners (BT).
These research activities of the VT group are illustrated by the following four themes:
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