A multimillion-pound joint research project to help prevent potentially disastrous computer failure in global stock markets has been launched.
City University is joining forces with the universities of Newcastle, Edinburgh, Lancaster and York to develop improved techniques for designing and using sophisticated computer-based systems.
A team of researchers, including psychologists and sociologists, as well as computing, communications and mathematics experts, has been awarded more than Pounds 6 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council for the six-year project.
Bev Littlewood, director of the Centre for Software Reliability at City University, London, said: "Systems are becoming ever more complex, and there is pressure for them to be built faster for less cost. These systems are crucial so we need to make sure that they are sufficiently dependable."
Computer failures cost billions of pounds each year and create unacceptable social problems, such as the London Ambulance Service failure and Passport Office debacle, Professor Littlewood said.
"There has been scientific progress in achieving high dependability in computer hardware and software, but wider systems involving people, computers and business
or social organisations are often disastrously unsuccessful.
"We're going to be working with partners including the National Health Service, British Aerospace, SwissRe, National Air Traffic Services, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate and London law firm Clifford Chance to look at real-life applications."
The project will build on work already carried out at City on how risk assessment can be measured.
Professor Littlewood said: "Without scientific ways to understand, quantify and reason about risk there can be no real discussion of dependability."