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. My background is in human factors and software engineering, with extensive experience in both (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

I am currently project manager on the SFC funded Horizon project Creating High Value Cloud Services . Here we are working with SMEs (mostly from the Oil & Gas industry) in Scotland to investigate how they can utilise the cloud in ways that will be beneficial to them. As part of this project we have set up the Scottish Cloud Computing Network, which will be used to disseminate the results. If you are interested in joining the network, please contact me (details below).

Frank Ritter (Penn State), Elizabeth Churchill (Director of HCI Research at eBay) and I are currently putting the finishing touches to our book Foundations for designing user centred systems , which discusses the things that designers really need to know about people. The book will hopefully appear as an e-Book (and hard copy), published by Springer, at some point around the end of 2013.

I am also working on the EPSRC funded large-scale complex IT systems project (LSCITS) with Ian Sommerville and formerly with John Rooksby (now at Glasgow). The main part of the project is now complete, and 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.

Together with Lisa Dow and Judith Malcolm, I have also been involved in supervising Masters' students in the area of usability of ICTs. In particular the students have investigated the use of ICT in preventive health care, including 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

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: A small pilot installation of a telecare system in a care home had to be independently evaluated. The aim was to identify if 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.

Computer support for rapid decision making: With the current trend towards using synthetic agents in warfare, 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.

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Other Work-related Activities

In my time at St Andrews I have been involved in teaching Information Security Management, Academic Project Planning, Research Methods, Software Engineering Principles and Critical Systems Engineering 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 chaired the University of York HCI group 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.

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Selected Recent Publications (a full list is available here)

Journal articles

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

Werfs, M. & Baxter, G. (To appear). Towards resilient adaptive socio-technical systems. To appear 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.

Books and 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.

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

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: 26-Jul-2013