London software testing news UK

Testing Testers, Finding Flaws

Posted in General by testing in London on August 5, 2007

From New York Times

Some problems are particularly tough nuts to crack. Two computer science researchers at Keele University in UK say they believe that more progress can be made by shifting our focus from the problems themselves to the people who strive to solve them. The researchers, Gordon Rugg and Joanne Hyde of Keele’s Knowledge Modelling Group, have come up with a process they call Verifier that is designed to seek out mistakes in existing research on difficult problems.

By applying the scientific method to knowledge itself, Verifier has proved adept at exposing gaps in logic that can result from expert biases and mistakes, gaps that can invisibly skew their research results.

While Verifier promises to improve the odds of solving vexing intellectual puzzles, it may also help industries that rely on research to develop more effective products and treatment interventions. In principle, its developers say, the method can be used on any problem in business or academia because shortcomings in human reasoning are universal.

Using Verifier, an analyst conducts a series of systematic queries to evaluate the knowledge gathered on a given problem. The queries are based on sophisticated concepts from several social sciences. They include an investigation of the norms that govern how experts reason and the “craft skills” they use to produce knowledge. Verifier also draws on extensive studies on human error, decision-making and related topics.

Most scientists know they are not immune to the kinds of errors and biases that Verifier exposes, as well as other human frailties. They also think that their mistakes are self-correcting. They rely on their peers to catch their errors by scrutinizing their work and repeating their experiments.But when an entire discipline hews to false assumptions, its errors can stand unchallenged, sometimes for decades. Methods like Verifier are powerful tools to help speed the process of bringing those errors to light.

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