Message from the Director

Spring/Summer 2017

ISR Director Richard N. TaylorOn July 1 of this year Professor Crista Lopes became the Interim Director of the Institute for Software Research. Crista has served as Associate Director during this past year and will be leading ISR forward. I am very happy with this transition, as it will provide new energy to ISR as it expands in new directions. Crista is eminently qualified. She is a Distinguished Scientist of the ACM, the premier professional computer science association, and a Senior Member of the IEEE. She has been involved for several years in leadership positions within ACM, including serving as Treasurer of the Special Interest Group in Programming Languages (SIGPLAN) and Chair of the Steering Committee of SPLASH/OOPSLA, one of the major programming conferences. She is also a member of two important ad-doc ACM committees: the Committee on Conference Reclassification, which created the new journal series Proceedings of the ACM, and a Committee on Sustainability, which is looking into how to reduce the amount of conference travel related to ACM conferences. Outside of the ACM, she is the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journal, The Art, Science, and Engineering of Programming.

One of the new directions ISR will be pursuing was introduced in my last Message: an increased focus on cybersecurity. I am happy to announce that the campus leadership has recognized both the importance of the topic and the appropriateness of ISR together with the Cybersecurity Policy & Research Institute (CPRI) to lead this emphasis, by awarding two faculty slots for new hires in this area. The slots are formally awarded to the School of Information and Computer Science. Stay tuned for news on faculty candidates during the coming academic year.

Taylor accepts Impact Paper award from SIGSOFT Chair Prof. Medvidović.On page 1 of this Connector you can find a notice of an award that Roy Fielding and I recently received, the SIGSOFT Impact Paper Award. As ACM describes it, “The ACM SIGSOFT Impact Paper Award is presented annually to the author(s) of a paper presented at a SIGSOFT-sponsored or co-sponsored conference held at least 10 years prior to the award year… The papers are judged by their influence since their publication.” Our award is for the work that alumnus Roy Fielding led in creating the modern Web, in particular the REST architectural style. In addition to REST, Roy is also the first author on the HTTP/1.1 protocol spec, is an author on the URI specs, led the Apache web server project (httpd), and was the first president of the Apache Software Foundation.

My point in bringing up this old history is not to tout accomplishments or burnish medals. Rather it offers a chance to reflect on software engineering research: how it is funded, conducted, evaluated, published, and transitioned. The tale of REST, the Web, and the HTTP/1.1 protocol is certainly at odds with much current software engineering research practice. The work on these topics at ISR spanned a decade. In the early years of the work it was difficult to explain to funding agencies why the Web was a “big deal” and why they would later be glad to tout it as one of their signature accomplishments. The University of California, Irvine had a hard time understanding why one of ISR’s Ph.D. students was taking close to a decade to finish his degree. Wasn’t that “slowness” indication of “inadequate progress towards the degree”? And how was this “open source” thing actually going to produce production-grade software? In hindsight it is easy to see that we made the right decisions. But at the time it was a bit of a struggle to tell the tale well. The point I want to emphasize, though, is that the accomplishments required a relentless determination to make advances that had depth, integrity, quality, and value. REST did not result from a summer research project that produced a one-off solution that no one will ever actually use. Developing REST and HTTP/1.1 required tenacity and a dedication to quality. It required building substantial software of lasting value. Kudos to Roy. I just wish all software engineering research held to the same standards and values.

Finally, given that this is my final Message, I would like to extend a most heartfelt thanks to all who have worked so hard over the past 18 years to make ISR such a success. This includes the faculty and graduate students, of course, but also our many industrial partners, some who have supported us over virtually the entire time I have served as Director. And a special thanks to the ISR staff who have ably served, running conferences, handling all the (virtual) paperwork that is endemic to large public institutions, and being the constant, professional, public face of the Institute. Most especially I would like to recognize Assistant Director, Debra Brodbeck, for her outstanding service. Thanks to all of you!

For more information on Director Taylor, visit:

This article appeared in ISR Connector issue: