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Dynamic models for problem tangles

Contact: Jon G. Hall (J.G.Hall 'at' or Lucia Rapanotti (L.Rapanotti 'at'

General description
As engineering is the practice of organising the design and construction of new artefacts to meet identified needs in context (Roger, 1983), understanding the context is key to the engineering process. However, for most engineering endeavours today, whether for a new software system, a new technology or even a policy, reaching an adequate understanding is made more difficult due to the complexity and volatility of the context: we live in a highly interconnected digital world, characterised by tangled relationships and rapid change.

Providing models to help the engineer explicate such relationships and make reliable predictions of change under uncertainty remains an open research question in many branches of engineering. This research aims to contribute to this body of knowledge.

Research methodology
A Design and Creation methodology is particularly suited for this type of research. By ”Design and Creation” we mean the development of a dynamic model for ‘engineering problem tangles’ (a new artefact) through a rigorous process of awareness, suggestion, development, evaluation and conclusion (Oates, 2006).

The starting point for the dynamic model will be Problem Oriented Engineering (POE, for short), a theoretical framework developed at the Open University for the exploration and solution of engineering problems. The new dynamic model from problem tangles should both embed and extend this theoretical basis.

Under this methodology, validation could be based on experimentation, assessing both analytic and predictive capabilities of the model with respect to benchmark tangle problems.
This research will require well-developed analytical skills, software development expertise and familiarity, or willingness to work, with formal notations.

We recommend you consider the following resources on POE:

Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti (2012). Software engineering as the design theoretic transformation of software problems. Innovations in Systems and Software Engineering, 8(3):175–193. (Available via OU Library)

Jon G. Hall and Lucia Rapanotti (2008). The discipline of natural design. In Proceedings of the Design Research Society Conference 2008, Sheffield, UK, 16-19 July. (Available via OU Library)

Problem Oriented Engineering wiki (

If you have any problem accessing any of the above, please get in touch directly with Dr Lucia Rapanotti (

You could also consider the following resources on research methodology:

Briony J. Oates (2006). Researching Information Systems and Computing. SAGE Publications.

An excellent reading on the nature of engineering:

Rogers, G. F. C. (1983). The nature of engineering: a philosophy of technology. Macmillan Press.