Carnegie Mellon University
April 29, 2016

Herbsleb Wins SIGSOFT Outstanding Research Award

By Byron Spice

Jim Herbsleb, famed for his research in collaboration and coordination on large-scale software engineering projects, is this year's winner of the Outstanding Research Award presented by the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Software Engineering (SIGSOFT).

The award "is the single most prestigious award a researcher in our community can receive," said Nenad Medvidovic, chair of the SIGSOFT executive committee. It is presented annually to an individual or individuals who have made significant and lasting research contributions to the theory or practice of software engineering.

The award will be presented to Herbsleb May 18 at the International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE) in Austin, Texas.

Herbsleb, professor in the Institute for Software Research and director of the Ph.D. program in societal computing, has focused his research on developing theory, conducting empirical studies and designing practical applications of his work on coordination in software development. He takes a socio-technical approach, in which the pattern of technical dependencies in a project is seen as defining a constraint satisfaction problem that the organization must solve.

Among the topics he has addressed is how development teams can function and collaborate even when, as is increasingly the case, the team members are geographically dispersed. He also has explored issues related to open-source development, both in individual projects and in large-scale ecosystems of interdependent projects. He has focused particularly on the role communication media, collocation and transparent environments play in coordinating technical work.

"Jim's work has led to the development of a rigorous theory of collaboration in software engineering," said William L. Scherlis, ISR director. "He has led in the study of interdependencies between engineering decisions in software design, and the human and organizational activities that produce and act on those decisions.”

This is particularly significant for modern software engineering projects, which typically involve both diverse sourcing of software components and complex organizational structures, Scherlis noted. Herbsleb has pioneered a strongly empirical approach based on in-depth study of large software projects, including both commercial and open-source projects.

Herbsleb joined the School of Computer Science faculty in 2002 after serving as a researcher in the Software Production Research Department at Bell Laboratories and, prior to that, the technical staff of CMU's Software Engineering Institute. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in cognitive social psychology and a J.D. in law and psychology, both from the University of Nebraska.

Among his previous awards are SCS's Alan Newell Award for Research Excellence in 2014, a Distinguished Paper Award at ICSE 2011 and the Most Influential Paper Award at ICSE 2010.

ISR's Mary Shaw and David Garlan were co-recipients of SIGSOFT's Outstanding Research Award in 2011.