Computer science defended

April 7, 1995

On top of Darrel Ince's proposal (MM, March 10) to disband computer science departments came news of the poor showing by those departments in HEFCE quality assessments. Readers leapt to the subject's defence.

The feature by Darrell Ince was certainly a thought provoking read, not least because I have just moved from a business school to a school of computer studies - quite the reverse of what Ince advocated. The central issue though is not a personal one for individual academics, it is about the nature of computer science as a discipline.

While it is true that computer science departments have been successful in terms of the knowledge explosion, it does not follow that too much is being taught in degree programmes. Each has its own degree of specialisation. Departments each have their own research strengths from which their teaching programmes feed. For example, at the University of Leeds the school of computer studies (not science) has strengths in a number of areas including artificial intelligence, parallel processing, theoretical computer science, operational research and information systems. The degree programmes on offer reflect these interests in both content and title.

On the research side Ince argues as if computer science departments were insular. The trend toward more interdisciplinary research, especially with collaborative partners from business and industry, must be the way forward. The actual labelling or branding of academics as "computer science" is irrelevant. What we are striving to do is to develop, apply and use the technology for the benefit of people and society. The achievement of this goal requires a critical mass of academics working together irrespective of disciplinary or organisational boundaries.

David J. Grimshaw

School of computer studies University of Leeds

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