Effects of Globalization of Software Engineering

Published in volume 23, issue 3, May 2013

This issue has three intriguing papers. The first, Using Concepts of Content-based Image Retrieval to Implement Graphical Testing Oracles, by Delamaro, de Lourdes dos Santos Nunes, and de Oliveira, presents a new way to automate the oracle function for programs that produce images. (Recommended by Atif Memon.) The second, A Measurement-based Ageing Analysis of the JVM, by Cotroneo, Orlando, Pietrantuono, and Russo, presents a practical exploration of the issue of aging software. Software is modeled as "aging" by considering such things as the long term depletion of resources from the operating system, incremental corruption of data, and accumulation of numerical errors. This paper analyzes the JVMís aging characteristics. (Recommended by Michael Lyu.) The third, Regression Verification: Proving the Equivalence of Similar Programs, by Godlin and Strichman, looks at techniques for proving that two programs have equivalent behavior. This would allow for verification of program changes without needing to refer to a formal specification. (Recommended by Wolfgang Grieskamp.)


One of the most exciting trends Iíve been fortunate enough to join is globalization. When I was growing up in a small town in eastern Kentucky, the James Bond movies always captivated me. The most exciting thing about the movies was they let me join another world, and not just New York and Los Angeles, but Europe and Asia. Bond took me on a tour of plush hotels, casinos, expensive restaurants, and fast cars in every corner of the world.

When I started my career in the late 1980s, most conferences I attended were in North America, and foreign attendees were rare. But the world was changing, and we soon started travelling overseas to conferences and welcoming foreign visitors into the US. Most of my PhD students and many of my MS students are from overseas. It is now common and normal to collaborate with scientists from all over the world.

Globalization brings enormous benefits, but of course with certain costs (jet lag is perhaps the most mundane). Robert Laughlin, Nobel Prize in physics (1998) said it well: "The global economy imposes a tax on young people in the form of learning English." He went on to say that native-English speakers have a different tax; by not being required to learn a new language, they are slower to absorb broader lessons about the emerging global culture.

A couple of years later, one of my colleagues exasperatedly said that dealing with cheating in the classroom is part of acculturating our students. At my university in the US, the vast majority of classroom cheating is with foreign students, some of whom seem to have trouble accepting that we seriously believe itís wrong. Attitude towards cheating and plagiarism is clearly cultural.

The research community also has to acculturate new members. I see this clearly in STVR, which is truly an international journal, and at ICST, one of the most diversely international conferences I attend. No nation or continent dominates either venue, a happy trend that affects us all. Iíve developed the following evolving list of issues that are affected by the globalization of software engineering research:

  1. Language and dialect.
  2. References and citations.
  3. Standards for research quality.
  4. Cheating and plagiarism.
  5. Importance of logical flow, motivation, and avoiding assumptions based on our own cultural context.

I plan to expand on each of these issues in the next few editorials. My initial purpose is to simply understand this interesting phenomenon. But once we understand, perhaps we can make this process easier. We can recognize what new members of our community need to know, identify which things individuals do not know, and then help them learn. Even better, we might be able to identify flaws in our emerging global community and then develop plans to improve. (For example, how did we get stuck with English, and is that really what we want?)

More later ...

Jeff Offutt
11 March 2013