Though in essence an engineering discipline, software engineering research has always been struggling to demonstrate impact. This is reflected in part by the funding challenges that the discipline faces in many countries, the difficulties we have to attract industrial participants to our conferences, and the scarcity of papers reporting industrial case studies.
There are clear historical reasons for this but we nevertheless need, as a community, to question our research paradigms and peer evaluation processes in order to improve the situation. From a personal standpoint, relevance and impact are concerns that I have been struggling with for a long time, which eventually led me to leave a comfortable academic position and a research chair to work in industry-driven research.
I will use some concrete research project examples to argue why we need more inductive research, that is, research working from specific observations in real settings to broader generalizations and theories. Among other things, the examples will show how a more thorough understanding of practice and closer interactions with practitioners can profoundly influence the definition of research problems, and the development and evaluation of solutions to these problems. Furthermore, these examples will illustrate why, to a large extent, useful research is necessarily multidisciplinary. I will also address issues regarding the implementation of such a research paradigm and show how our own bias as a research community worsens the situation and undermines our very own interests.
On a more humorous note, the title hints at the fact that being a scientist in software engineering and aiming at having impact on practice often entails leading two parallel careers and impersonate different roles to different peers and partners.
Lionel Briand is heading the Certus center on software verification and validation at Simula Research Laboratory, where he is leading research projects with industrial partners. He is also a professor at the University of Oslo (Norway). Before that, he was on the faculty of the department of Systems and Computer Engineering, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, where he was full professor and held the Canada Research Chair (Tier I) in Software Quality Engineering. He is the coeditor-in-chief of Empirical Software Engineering (Springer) and is a member of the editorial boards of Systems and Software Modeling (Springer) and Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability (Wiley). He was on the board of IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering from 2000 to 2004. Lionel was elevated to the grade of IEEE Fellow for his work on the testing of object-oriented systems. His research interests include: model-driven development, testing and verification, search-based software engineering, and empirical software engineering.