Still logged on at the cutting edge 1

February 16, 2007

I was somewhat surprised to see Neil McBride's article on computer science (Opinion, February 9). Yes, we do teach algorithms, some of which have "remained unchanged for 30 years". Would McBride like to be treated by a doctor who had not been taught about the circulation of the blood because it was discovered 300 years ago?

I do not recognise "a PhD is not a gateway to industry": one of my PhDs is chief technology officer of one of Britain's oldest software houses, and two of our staff (with PhDs) are on secondment to industry, one with the explicit aim to "improve teaching by bringing relevant skills back to influence taught courses".

If computing departments' "research base is weak", can McBride explain why a US software house pays for one of our professors to fly to India to contribute algorithms to their software development of globalised products?

Not all those who use secure websites know that their security rests on the concept of public-key encryption, which was developed by British computer scientists at GCHQ. It is perhaps telling that security, one of UK computer science's strengths, does not feature in McBride's list of "skills in IT departments". This probably tells us something about our failure to "engage with society".

James Davenport.
Bath University

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