Dr Gordon D. Baxter

Contact: gordon dot baxter at st-andrews dot ac dot uk

About me

I am a research fellow in the School of Computer Science at the University of St. Andrews. I have extensive experience in both human factors and software engineering (as described below). My general research interests lie in trying to improve the way that systems are developed, so that we can provide the end users with something that is usable, acceptable, and does the job. It also means providing the research users (the developers) with pragmatic tools and techniques that can be readily be picked up and used with little or no extra effort or resources. I am interested in understanding how decisions and actions taken at all levels (regulatory, organisational, team and individual) affect what happens at the sharp end of the system where the user interacts with the technology. In particular I am interested in how the technology can support the users in carrying out their tasks in situations where there are time and resource constraints, as often happens with complex systems. Currently my work is influenced by ideas from Resilience Engineering, and Cognitive Systems Engineering which means thinking more functionally about systems as a whole (i.e. people, technology and organisations) rather than taking an atomistic decomposition (or reductionist) type of approach, and focusing on successes as well as failures as a source of learning opportunities.

Current Research

The book Foundations for designing user centred systems, written by Frank Ritter (Penn State), Elizabeth Churchill (Director of HCI Research at eBay) and I was published by Springer in April 2014 and launched at the CHI 2014 Conference in Toronto. Foundations for DUCS (as we refer to it) provides system designers with the fundamental knowledge needed to understand their users' capabilities and limitations, the tasks those users will perform, and the context in which they will be performed. It also highlights the practical implications of this knowledge on system design. Foundations for DUCS was written for practitioners as well as academics, and for people working in software engineering as well as human factors/HCI, thereby reflecting the our extensive collective experience of designing, building and carrying out research into interactive systems. It is available as an eBook as well as hard copy.

I am currently project manager on the SFC funded Horizon project Creating High Value Cloud Services . Here we have been working with SMEs (mostly from the Oil & Gas industry) in Scotland to investigate how they can migrate their existing software products to the cloud in ways that will be beneficial to them. We have produced white papers on the issues that they highlighted (such as security, privacy, governance, the changing nature of Service Level Agreements) and carried out several case studies with them. We have also developed a web-based toolkit that allows companies to explore the potential costs and revenues that could accrue from migrating to the cloud. Details of all aspects of the project can be found on the project web site

Together with Lisa Dow and Judith Malcolm, I have also supervised several MSc projects on the usability of ICTs. Several of these projects have included the use of ICT in preventive health care: assessing the effectiveness of bespoke health information leaflets on awareness of the links between lifestyle and cancer; the usability of home based monitoring devices; the use of social networking groups in raising awareness about diabetes; and the use of mobile advertising to raise awareness about the links between alcohol and cancer.

Past projects

I also worked on the EPSRC funded large-scale complex IT systems project (LSCITS) with Ian Sommerville and John Rooksby  (now at Glasgow). In St Andrews we focused on the area of socio-technical systems engineering. We were interested in trying to capture what we know about how people really use systems in terms of failures (such as using workarounds to deal with problems, and how socio-technical systems deal with failures on a daily basis) and successes so that we can be fed back into the system design process. We investigated issues related to the deployment of ERP systems in the Oil & Gas industries, as well as identifying and analysing the vulnerabilities associated with responsibilities, mostly in large governmental organisations.

Before coming to St Andrews I worked as a research fellow in the  University of York's HCI Group in the  Department of Psychology on the DIRC (Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration on the Dependability of computer-based systems) project. The work covered issues of human-machine interaction (HMI), usability, and ergonomics/human factors in large computer-based systems. This mainly involved working with people outside of academia.

Performance modelling: With Professor Alan Burns from the Computer Science department, I looked at  the modelling of behaviour in socio-technical systems. This was based on a locally developed time band framework that can be used to describe and design the structure of socio-technical systems. A constraint-based approach was used, using a simple scheduling model developed in Sicstus Prolog.

Telecare system evaluation: I carried out an independent evaluation of a small pilot installation of a telecare system in a care home, togeterh with Joe Wherton, on a consultancy basis. The aim was to assess whether the selected system was suitable for the particular clients (older people, some living with dementia) and staff in the care home, and to suggest alternative systems that could provide the same functionality.

Cognitive mismatches: The problem of cognitive mismatches continues to exist in complex systems. This project set out to define cognitive mismatches and gain some understanding of the conditions in which they can occur. The aim was to provide a basis for investigating how cognitive mismatches could be investigated experimentally, with a view to identifying how they can be managed.

Telecare systems usability/dependability: In addition to general problems of malfunctioning equipment, telecare services can also create problems that affect clients' everyday lives. This project set out to identify, analyse and manage these problems in a client-centred way, based on a bespoke method for analysing risk in domestic settings.

Dependability in neonatal intensive care: Before introducing a proposed new decision support system, the level of dependability of the neonatal intensive care unit needed to be assessed. The results from the dependability assessment were to be used to inform the development of the decision support system and associated training needs, to make sure that the unit's dependability was not adversely affected by the new system.

Human Factors Training: Together with Chris Powell I delivered the human factors part of a training course for engineers working for a large UK company. I also redeveloped the materials for future courses.

Prior to working in York, I was employed as a Research Associate in the Psychology Department at the University of Nottingham, where I also studied for a PhD in human factors (part-time, whilst working in software development in industry).

Computer support for rapid decision making: This project looked at how cognitive models could be deployed as embedded user models to provide support to real users in carrying out tasks in a ship-based defence application.

The post in Nottingham came after studying for a MPhil in Cognitive Science. This was I had worked for several years in software development in aerospace, defence and industrial process control, mostly developing user interfaces.

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Other Work-related Activities

In my time at St Andrews I have been involved in teaching Critical Systems Engineering, Research Methods, Academic Project Planning, Software Engineering Principles and Information Security Management at Masters level. I previously developed and taught a module on Cognitive Ergonomics to third year Psychology students at York in 2006. I also taught User Interface Design to computer science students at the University of Nottingham.

I am currently the chair of the Scottish regional group of the BCS Interaction Group. Whilst at York I chaired the HCI group weekly seminars for six years, and have helped organise conferences and workshops on assistive technology, cognitive ergonomics and health informatics. I have also reviewed articles for several journals (including ToCHI, Ergonomics, Interacting with Computers, the International Journal of HCI, the International Journal of Medical Informatics, Artificial Intelligence in Medicine and Risk Management) and conferences (including CHI, INTERACT, DIS, ATACCS, ECCE and BCS HCI), and commented on draft ISO standards relating to human centred design and to accessibility issues.  I have also reviewed several books for the Ergonomics journal, and reviewed several book proposals.

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Selected Publications (a full list is available here)


Ritter, F.E., Baxter, G.D., & Churchill, E.F. (2014). Foundations for Designing User-Centered Systems . London, UK: Springer.

N. Baghaei, G. Baxter, L. Dow & S. Kimani (Eds.) (2011)  Proceedings of INTERACT 2011 workshop: Promoting and supporting healthy living by design.

Journal articles

Baxter, G.D., Churchill, E.F. & Ritter, F.E. (2014). Addressing the fundamental attribution error of design using the ABCS. AIS SIGHCI Newsletter, 13, 1, 9-10. (Downloadable from the AIS SIGHCI web site ).

Werfs, M., Baxter, G., Allison, I.K., & Sommerville, I. (2013). Migrating software products to the cloud: An adaptive STS perspective. Journal of International Technology and Information Management, 22, 3, 37-54.

Steele, M., Dow, L. & Baxter, G. (2011). Promoting public awareness of the links between lifestyle and cancer: A controlled study of the usability of health information leaflets. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 80, 12, 214-229.

Baxter, G. & Sommerville, I. (2011). Socio-technical systems: From design methods to systems engineering. Interacting with Computers, 23, 1, 4-17.

Tan K., Baxter, G., Newell, S., Smye, S., Dear, P., Brownlee, K., & Darling, J. (2010). Knowledge elicitation for validation of a neonatal ventilation expert system utilising modified Delphi and focus group techniques. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 68, 6, 344-354 .

Baxter, G.D., Besnard, D., and Riley, Capt. D. (2007) Cognitive mismatches in the cockpit: Will they ever be a thing of the past? Applied Ergonomics, 38, 4, 417-423

Monk, A., Hone, K., Lines, L., Dowdall, A., Baxter, G., Blythe, M., & Wright, P. (2006). Towards a practical framework for managing the risks of selecting technology to support independent living. Applied Ergonomics, 37, 5, 599-606.

Baxter, G.D., Monk, A.F., Tan, K., Dear, P.R.F., & Newell, S.J. (2005). Using Cognitive Task Analysis to facilitate the integration of decision support systems into the neonatal intensive care unit. Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, 35, 3, 243-257.

Conference and workshop papers

Chadaj, M., Allison, C. & Baxter, G. (Accepted for publication). MOOCs with Attitudes. Paper accepted for 44th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, October, 2014, Madrid, Spain.

Baxter, G. (2014). Data and design from different perspectives. Paper presented at Data Design for Personalization: Current Challenges and Emerging Opportunities workshop, held in conjunction with WSDM 2014. All papers are available on the workshop website.

Werfs, M. & Baxter, G. (2013). Towards resilient adaptive socio-technical systems. In Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics 2013. European Association for Cognitive Ergonomics.

Baxter, G. & Cartlidge, J. (2013). Flying by the seat of their pants: What can High Frequency Trading learn from aviation? In Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Application and Theory of Automation in Command and Control Systems (ATACCS).

Baxter, G., Rooksby, J., Wang, Y. & Khajeh-Hosseini, A. (2012). The ironies of automation... still going strong at 30? In Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics 2012. European Association for Cognitive Ergonomics.

Baxter, G. & Sommerville, I. (2012). Socio-technical systems engineering. In Proceedings of 4th international conference on human factors and ergonomics (AHFE).

Adegbamiye, T., Dow, L., & Baxter, G. (2011). Evaluating the usability of home BP monitors. In N. Baghaei, G. Baxter, L. Dow & S. Kimani (Eds.), Proceedings of INTERACT 2011 workshop: Promoting and supporting healthy living by design.  (pp. 9-11).

Baxter, G., & Sommerville, I. (2011). Responsibility modelling for resilience. In E. Hollnagel and E. Rigaud (Eds.) Proceedings of the fourth Resilience Engineering Symposium. (pp. 22-28). Sophia Antipolis, France: Presses des MINES.

Lock, R., Storer, T., Sommerville, I. & Baxter, G. (2009). Responsibility modelling for risk analysis. In Proceedings of ESREL 2009. (pp. 1103-1109).

Baxter, G.D., Burns, A., & Tan, K. (2007). Evaluating timebands as a tool for the structuring of socio-technical systems. In P. Bust (Ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics 2007. (pp. 55-60). London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Baxter, G.D. and Monk, A.F. (2006). A technique for the client-centred evaluation of electronic assistive technology. In P. Bust (Ed.) Contemporary Ergonomics 2006. (pp. 236-240). London, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Baxter, G.D., Filipe, J.K., Miguel, A., & Tan, K. (2005) The effects of timing and collaboration on dependability in the neonatal intensive care unit. In F. Redmill and T. Anderson (Eds.), Constituents of Modern System-safety Thinking: Proceedings of the Thirteenth Safety-critical Systems Symposium. (pp. 195-210). London, UK: Springer-Verlag.

Book chapters

Baxter, G. & Sommerville, I. (To appear). Evaluating emergency preparedness: Using responsibility models to identify vulnerabilities. To appear in A. Stedmon and G. Lawson (eds.) Counter-terrorism and hostile intent: Human factors theory and application.

Ritter, F., Baxter, G., Kim, J., & Srinivasmurthy, S. (2013). Learning and retention. In J. Lee and A. Kirlik (eds.)The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Engineering (pp. 125-142). New York, NY: Oxford.

Burns, A., & Baxter, G. (2006) Time bands in system structure. In D. Besnard, C., Gacek, C. & C. Jones (Eds.) Structure for Dependability: Computer-based Systems from an Interdisciplinary Perspective. (pp. 74-90). London, UK: Springer.

Besnard, D. & Baxter, G. (2006) Cognitive conflicts in dynamic systems. In D. Besnard, C., Gacek, C. & C. Jones (Eds.) Structure for Dependability: Computer-based Systems from an Interdisciplinary Perspective. (pp. 107-126). London, UK: Springer.

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Professional Affiliations

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Extra-curricular activities

I like to play golf when I get the chance, and I am a member of Crail Golfing Society. I also like to go walking and very occasionally play other sports (mainly football, and badminton). I go to watch Scotland play football regularly, and follow the national rugby union team as well. When time allows I try to get along to watch the Pars (Dunfermline Athletic) play football, and the Fife Flyers play ice hockey. In the spring/summer I tend to follow Rugby League and baseball a little bit more, particularly the Atlanta Braves, and the Minnesota Twins. 

To relax, I listen to, and watch a lot of music, of various styles. I regularly write album reviews for the British based Blues In Britain magazine, and occasionally do some work for the American Blues On Stage web-based blues magazine.  I also read a lot of novels, mostly crime fiction/thrillers by writers such as Elmore Leonard, Andrea Camilleri, James Lee Burke, and Ian Rankin.

I sponsor a child in Ethiopia through Worldvision's scheme.

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Contact Information

E-mail: gordon dot baxter at st-andrews dot ac dot uk
Last Update: 16-Jul-2014