Industry vs. Academia: Making Amends at REFSQ11

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Some time ago, one of my fellow bloggers commented on the some of the tensions between so-called “industry” and “academia”.   An oversimplified description of the tension goes something like this: industry folk tend to believe that those in academia lack perspective on the work actually being performed outside of what industry types might call “the ivory towers”.  Academics, on the other hand, claim that industry types lack the rigor and discipline required in order to publish meaningful, original, and well-argued ideas which contribute something novel to the academic community.  Considering myself something of a failed academic who moved into industry, I have some sympathy for both positions and feel as though I tend to adopt the principle of charity more so than some of my fellow colleagues and academicians.  Furthermore, the tension between industry and academia has always seemed like somewhat of a false dichotomy to me, and I am always attempting to find ways in which requirements practitioners might leverage the work of the academy and vice versa.

Finding myself straddling this dichotomy, it was natural that I become attracted to the REFSQ2011 conference, which this year for the first time is hosting an Empirical Fair, which, from their website intends to “bring together practitioners and researchers together – very much like in a fair – so that: (1) practitioners can propose studies that organisations would like to have conducted and (2) researchers can propose studies they would like to conduct in industry. It is a meeting point to match the demand and supply of empirical studies among researchers and practitioners.”

In this spirit, ArgonDigital is on the road, this time in Essen, Germany to present a proposal at REFSQ 2011.  This year, academia and industry put their differences aside, and work together in a spirit of cooperation to solve problems in a mutually beneficial way.  I will be there hoping to recruit some fellow academicians to work with my colleague Joy Beatty and me on the proposal Towards a Universal Syntax of Software Requirements. “But wait,” you industry types may be thinking to yourself, “this sounds like an esoteric and academic topic with little relevance.  How will this make me as a practitioner more proficient?  What problems in industry will it solve, and how will it help me achieve my customers’ business objectives?”  You’re welcome to read the proposal here , but in short, the hope is that a more simplified “language of requirements” will achieve at least three things:

  1. Reduce ambiguity and misunderstanding of requirements by business stakeholders and developers–especially on projects where requirements must be understood across several linguistic boundaries.
  2. Reduce the number of inconsistent requirements.
  3. Increase the likelihood of requirements reusability,

There are additional benefits in attempting to formalize a language of requirements, including the promise of computability and the construction of requirements knowledge bases (which lend themselves to achieving any of the points listed above).  This isn’t an entirely new idea that we Sei-folk have explored.  In fact, our proposal was partially inspired by one of my previous posts with a fellow blogger on “Reqlish”.   So, I look forward to a productive Empirical Fair, and I trust that everyone will get along!

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