‘Working on software is working for society’

6 Jun 2023

Image: Dr Irum Inayat

Dr Irum Inayat, Lero and UCC researcher, discusses the value of interdisciplinary research and industry insights to understand the realities of software development.

“Public engagement is a key for sharing research with the community,” says Dr Irum Inayat. Inayat’s work is interdisciplinary and explores the topical area of responsible software engineering.

She is a senior postdoctoral researcher whose current project straddles the School of Applied Psychology in University College Cork, the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems in the University of Limerick, and Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software.

With more than 10 years of experience in research, Inayat is aware of the challenges of getting started in academia and wants to see more opportunities “for young researchers to publish and present their work”.

‘I am intrigued by challenges and tend to solve them with multiple approaches’

Tell us about your current research.

My academic job is in the field of software engineering. My doctoral research and professional experience in industry was focused on software engineering, specifically agile methodologies.

I am intrigued by challenges and tend to solve them with multiple approaches. I have always been eager to research in multidisciplinary fields. Over time, I have integrated software engineering with multiple fields, including automation systems, psychology and AI. I enjoy the process of learning about new technologies and new disciplines.

My current research is socio-technical and socio-psychological in nature in its exploration of the responsible side of software engineering. I look forward to extending my interest in relevant fields in future.

In your opinion, why is your research important?

Software is an integral part of everyone’s lives nowadays. Working on software is working for society. My current research investigates how software impacts one’s life, environment, society and ecosystems in multiple ways. Understanding the ramifications of software development and how to make it more responsible and human-centred could potentially have a huge impact.

What inspired you to become a researcher?

I am intrigued by challenges and every new problem is a challenge. It gives me immense satisfaction to work as a researcher and find solutions. Reading literature inspires me and tackling problems with research is my passion. I enjoy my work and find it intellectually satisfying.

What are some of the biggest challenges or misconceptions you face as a researcher in your field?

The biggest challenge with software engineering research is to adhere to ethics. Ethical standards should not be violated in practice or in research. Ethical considerations are often disregarded in software engineering because it is not about life and death. However, it is as important to put ethics first in software engineering research as it is in medicine.

Aside from ethics, I believe industry and academia should work more closely together to use insights from industry and have real-life cases reflected in research publications, rather than relying on theoretical cases conducted in academic settings.

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