Current Projects

Engineering Emergence in Large-Scale Systems
The goal of Engineering Emergence in Large-scale Systems (EELS) is to detect beneficial emergent norms in complex systems and promote those norms.
The behaviour of any group of independent, interacting components (agents), whether people in a society or organisation or components of a distributed software system, is challengingly (often unfeasibly) complex to predict. Even where individuals are relatively predictable in their reactions to events, the behaviour of the system as a whole, which emerges from the interaction of those agents, can depend on the timing and sequence of interactions as well as the mutual reactions of those interacting. However, some expectations on behaviour within a system could bring benefits in reaching system goals, particularly because individual agents can plan on the basis of those expectations. One form of expectation is a norm, which here means a regular pattern of behaviour. This could either be explicit and enforced, as in a regulation, or may emerge from system behaviour, often called a social norm. Existing work on the emergence of norms has focused on quite simplistic norms, and little effort has been made to specify how emergent norms could be exploited to a system’s benefit. In this project, we will investigate how to characterise emergent behaviour, and norms in particular, within a multi-agent system, assess their likely impact on the system, and create mechanisms by which emergent norms determined to be beneficial can be explicitly committed to and built upon to improve the system over time.

BDI4JADE: A BDI Layer on top of JADE
One of the most widely used ways of designing and implementing cognitive agents is following the BDI architecture, such as JACK, Jason and Jadex. These three platforms are based on Java, but agents are implemented in a Domain-specific Language (DSL) in specific file types (e.g. XML), which are processed and run on the Java platform. As a consequence, this prevents developers from using some features of the Java language, such as reflection and annotations, that help with the implementation of complex applications as well as integration with existing technologies. In response, we have implemented a BDI layer on top of JADE, namely BDI4JADE. JADE is a Java-based agent platform that provides a robust infrastructure for implementing agents, including behaviour scheduling, communication and yellow pages service. We have leveraged these features provided by JADE, and built a BDI reasoning mechanism to JADE agents. Agents developed with our JADE extension are implemented using only the constructions provided by Java language.

Electronic Health Records for Clinical Research (EHR4CR)

Previous Projects

Interdisciplinary Informatics: Bridging the Gap
Funded by the EPSRC, this project aims to develop longer-term collaborations involving Informatics in its broadest sense (computing, robotics, telecommunications, etc).
We have identified three key focus areas for inter-disciplinary collaborations (otherwise known as the key themes), but we do not limit potential collaborations to these areas:
  • Security: Informatics (Computer Science, Telecommunications, Robotics) with Social Sciences (eg. Management and War Studies)
  • Health:  Informatics (Computer Science, Telecommunications, Robotics) with Medicine and Healthcare
  • Science & Engineering: Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Mathematics, etc.

Norm and Organisation Based Practical Reasoning
Funded by the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS DTC), this project aims to investigate the adoption, exchange and termination of norms by, and between agents; practical reasoning with norms; and normative conflict.

CONTRACT is a research project funded by the European Commission in the context of the 6th Framework Program. The aim of the project is develop frameworks, components and tools which make it possible to model, build, verify and monitor distributed electronic business systems on the basis of dynamically generated, cross-organisational contracts which underpin formal descriptions of the expected behaviours of individual services and the system as a whole. The project covers both theoretical and practical aspects and the resulting systems will make it possible to: specify electronic business-to-business interactions in terms of contracts; dynamically establish and manage contracts at runtime in a digital business environment; apply formal verification techniques to collections of contracts in a digital business environment; and apply monitoring techniques to contract implementation in order to help provide the basis for business confidence in e-Business infrastructures.

Project results will include publicly available theoretical models, a reusable contracting language specification, open source software components compatible with leading e-Business environments and tools implementing innovative verification techniques which make it possible to check the properties of contract based business systems both at design time and runtime.

AgentLink III: A Coordination Network for Agent-Based Computing
Funded by the IST programme of the European Commission.

Coalition Formation for Virtual Organisations (CONOISE and CONOISE-G)
This research will develop techniques and algorithms for coalition formation in virtual enterprises. Particular attention will be focused on the mechanisms by which coalitions can be formed, maintained and disbanded when they are no longer effective. Funded by DTI and BTexaCT.

AgentLink II: Continuation of a Network of Excellence for Agent-Based Computing
The long term objective of AgentLink II is to put Europe at the leading edge of international competitiveness in the area of agent-based computing. The medium term goals of AgentLink II are: to gain competitive advantage for European industry by promoting and raising awareness of agent systems technology; to facilitate improvement in the standard, profile, and industrial relevance of European research in the area of agent-based computer systems; to promote excellence of teaching and training in the area of agent-based systems; and to provide a widely known, high quality European forum in which current issues, problems, and solutions in the research and development of agent-based computer systems may be debated and resolved. Funded by the IST programme of the European Commission.

Non-intrusive services to support focused, efficient and enjoyable local activities (FEEL)
This project is concerned with the process of managing intrusiveness in pervasive computing environments. In particular, we intend to investigate the use of argumentation-based negotiation as mechanism for managing intrusivess in a context sensitive fashion. Funded by the IST program under the Disappearing Computer initiative.

The Combechem project is one of the UK's national e-science projects. The project is working on Grid-enabled combinatorial chemistry, concentrating on crystallography and laser and surface chemistry. Another major component of the project is the development of an e-Lab, using pervasive computing technology to record detailed information on all aspects of laboratory work. Funded by EPSRC.

myGrid is a research project that will extend the Grid framework of distributed computing, producing a virtual laboratory workbench that will serve the life sciences community. The integration environment will support patterns of scientific investigation that include: accumulating evidence; assimilating results; accessing community information sources; collaborating with disparately located researchers via electronic forums. Funded by EPSRC.

The SMART Framework for Agency and Autonomy
The richness of the agent metaphor that leads to many different uses of the term has also caused a situation where there is no commonly accepted notion of what it is that constitutes an agent. In response, we have developed a framework that precisely and unambiguously provides meanings for common concepts and terms, enables alternative models of particular classes of system to be described within it, and provides a foundation for subsequent development of increasingly more refined concepts. Our concern has been to develop well-defined formal concepts that can be used both as the basis of implementation, and also as a general framework for further research.

Agent Systems Specification
Complementing other strands of research, this work aims to start with implemented systems and formalise their architectures and operation in specifications that may then be used to inform more conceptual work. The benefits include better understanding and description of these systems, and the closer integration of agent theory and practice.

Agents are autonomous problem-solving entities that can interact with others and respond to changing circumstances. The agent paradigm lends itself very well to the problems of effectively managing and improving the processes involved in genome analysis and protein structure prediction. This project aims to develop a multi-agent system for exactly this task. Funded by BBSRC.

Paradigma: Agent Implementation through Jini
Paradigma is the implementation, in Java, of the formal agent framework developed within the group. It uses Jini connectivity technology to enable the dynamic discovery, communication and cooperation of agents and other resources on a network. By placing the formal framework at the heart of Paradigma, we provide it with powerful and well understood concepts, enabling us to transfer the theoretical work directly to practical implementations. The result is a framework that facilitates rapid development of multi-agent systems whose operation can be clearly understood at both theoretical and practical levels, with each informing the other.