Research groups

BPRC Focus The Relevance and Contribution of Sociotechnical Systems

Address: University of Warwick, UK

The radical surgery associated with business process re-engineering, although attractive to macho management who want quick results has not turned out to be the success that was claimed for it. And yet restructuring is not new, it was for many years called work study and claimed to cut costs by rationalising the work process. It worked well for mass production but the nature of the work became repetitive and boring for employees.

If the business process re-engineering (BPR) and sociotechnical systems are compared with it is clear that the restructuring design principles are quite similar but the approaches differ greatly in their values and visions. BPR is about speeding up the work flow whereas sociotechnical systems is based on the belief that employees play a significant part in redesigning processes. A focus on process redesign improves work integration but may also produce new and difficult problems that are costly to resolve.

As the learning from BPR experiences point to human and organisational factors underlying successful implementation is there now a convergence of the two approaches and if the 'learning stopped' then is it now time to collect the results of experiences in both camps? The BPRC focus group will consider these aspects and identify where sociotechnical systems made a contribution to and have a role in business process change.

BCS Sociotechnical e-Democracy Research Group

The Sociotechnical e-Democracy Research Group is carrying out sociotechnical explorations of e-democracy in the UK. The UK Government, in common with many others across the globe, is seeking to enhance service delivery and to increase the participation of citizens in society through the use of digital technologies.

E-government systems and their associated processes, like many systems and processes are inherently "sociotechnical" in nature, i.e. they involve people interacting with technology to deliver outcomes not achievable by either the technology or the people working alone. However, established custom and practice in projects involving technological change is to focus on the development and implementation of the technology, rather than on designing, in an holistic way, the composite sociotechnical system of which the technology is just one component - albeit a major one.

To realise the vision of e-government requires a significant shift towards a sociotechnical systems paradigm for major change programmes. To progress towards this goal, each local government body is required to produce its own strategic planning document entitled 'Implementing Electronic Government' (IEG).

The Sociotechnical e-Democracy Research Group are investigating perceptions of the IEG development process, while the website examinations investigate the impact or influence on website content of the guidance from the ODPM. A particular focus of interest is the diversity in interpretation of the guidance, as evidenced by the content of the websites. The Group is considering the potential benefits to be derived from applying sociotechnical design principles to the design and implementation process, and recommends actions to promote the effective realisation of the vision of e-government.

Distributed Collaborative Engineering

Address: University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden

The Distributed Collaborative Engineering Group research area involves a multidisciplinary approach to the investigation of collaboration, learning and product development in geographically distributed environments. Collaboration in product development projects include all parts of the product development process such as brainstorming, concept generation, embodiment design, sharing of CAD models and detailed design.

Sharing and transfer of information between the collaborating sites and physical environments are of great interest, but there is also a need to investigate aspects related to learning and competence development in product development projects. Also, it is important to pay attention to the interaction between humans and technology. Even if technology works per definition, i.e. according to technical specifications, it does not automatically satisfy the needs of the users.

In order to increase the possibilities for successful collaboration across distances the Distributed Collaborative Engineering Group are researching into creating a deeper understanding of not only enabling technology, but also the work practice and the highly social activities that the technology is supposed to support.

Information Systems Group

Address: Griffith University, Queensland, Australia

The Information Systems group within the School of Computing & IT at Griffith University, undertake sociotechnical research into the improvement of understanding of how and why organisational commitment affects the adoption of software process innovations (SPI). The study takes a cultural perspective and focuses on two SPI's: software quality initiatives (SQI) and systems development methodologies (SDMs).

The group's work focuses on the Australian financial services industry providing a basis for similar studies of other IT sectors and provides supporting strategies to improve the innovativeness and success of the Australian IT industry. The research aims to gain are a better understanding of the factors that influence the relationship between organisational commitment and successful SPI adoption, and make recommendations to improve SPI adoption.

International Teledemocracy Centre

Address: Napier University, Edinburgh, UK

The International Teledemocracy Centre aims to develop and apply advanced information and communication technology to enhance and support the democratic decision-making process. They promote the application of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) by governments and parliaments worldwide in order that elected members and supporting staff can conduct their business more effectively and efficiently.

The centre also demonstrates how technology can contribute to more openness and accessibility in government. Moreover, they aim to encourage and assist the public, voluntary organisations and business to participate in government through the use of technology. The ITC is working towards achieving these objectives by establishing an innovative research environment where the multidisciplinary skills of computer scientists, information scientists and social scientists can work collaboratively to advance e-democracy research.

Open Systems Research Group

Address: Open University, Walton Hall, UK

The Open Systems Research Group at the Open University has a long tradition of work with a sociotechnical orientation (implicit if not explicit). We're based in the Faculty of Technology but orient ourselves around systems thinking techniques of various kinds, and have a particular focus on information systems and on environmental decision-making.

The Open Systems Research Group Our research activities extend from addressing significant social, ecological, and environmental issues to understanding the implications of computing and networking technology. From its inception the role of the Systems Group was to encourage specialist disciplines to take a more systemic approach to themselves and to the effects of their activities through interdisciplinary activity.

Systems staff carry out their research in a number of research groups. Our departmental website has some pertinent information. However, the site is in the process of reorganisation, so it's a bit out of date in its research emphases, but might be useful to give a flavour of what we do.

PEA Pod: Processes, Events and Activity Collaborative Research Programme

Address: University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK


PEA Pod is an Informatics Collaborative Research Programme in the representation and reasoning about plans, processes, events and activity. The representation and reasoning with and about plans, processes, events, activity and behaviour is a common theme that is being explored by almost every Institute within Informatics and in related areas within the University. A wide range of approaches and techniques are being employed. This collaboration is to help exchange experience between the various groups and approaches.

This collaborative research programme is intended to provide an informal platform for Edinburgh researchers and their friends to exchange their research work and experiences in plan, process, event and activity representation, modelling, reasoning and experiences of using them in a range of applications.

The group plan to have a series of mini-workshops as a framework for encouraging the activities of the group, and to invite members to attend relevant seminars and discussions across the various Institutes with research interests in the area. The group will encourage joint work, joint student supervision, seek collaborative research opportunities, engage together in internal and external workshops and conferences, and encourage joint industrial links and consultancy opportunities.

SBI - The Newcastle Centre for Social and Business Informatics [PARA]

Address: Newcastle University, UK [PARA]

Newcastle Centre for Social and Business Informatics (SBI) is a collaboration between researchers in Newcastle University focusing on the social, economic, managerial, organisational and cultural aspects of the design, development, deployment and use of information and communication technologies and their social consequences.

The Centre draws on researchers in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne Business School, the School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, School of [PARA] Computing Science and the School of Population and Health Sciences. The Group is also linked to a number of the University's Key Research Centres and groups including the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), the Centre for Software Reliability (CSR) and the Centre for Health Service Research (CHSR)

SEGSUN Software Engineering

Address: University of Sunderland, Tyne & Wear, UK

SEGSUN is performing research into sociotechnical software engineering management investigation (particularly from a risk management perspective), selection and choice of SE teams - based both on cognitive processes and skills as well as personality traits and team roles.

In addition we have expertise in quality assurance and standards. And, in a recent venture, the concept of metrics is being applied to web-sites to derive a metric for "web half-life": to provide a measurement tool for the degradation of a web page's links and content.

SEGSUN's holistic approach is a particularly strong feature of the group, where the themes of research reach-out and teaching are seen to be mutually supportive. The group is founded upon a participatory approach with a teamwork ethos encouraging creative working meetings in addition to the traditional seminars on research and teaching projects, and social events.

Social Computing

Address: Napier University, Edinburgh, UK

Social Computing is concerned with concepts of navigation, ideas of the nature of information, the impact of people working in new environments, with communities of practice and how we can understand these and with new media and design ideas coming from architecture, anthropology and social theories of interaction. Computers are becoming increasingly ubiquitous; they are 'disappearing' into everyday objects. They are becoming increasingly small, so much so that they are now wearable.

They are increasingly able to communicate with each other. These changes have had a major impact on our understanding of how computer systems should be designed and on what people can and want to do with them. Computers were being used in different contexts such as households and communities of people existed solely or primarily through computer-mediated communications.

People were not simply interacting with a computer they were interacting with people using various combinations of computers. Alongside this came the recognition that using computers needed to become a more enjoyable, social activity. The Social Computing project is an on-going collaboration between members of the Social Informatics and Human-Computer Interaction groups taking a wide ranging approach to the development of novel, people-focused systems.

Social Informatics Group

Address: Napier University, Edinburgh, UK

Social informatics is the interdisciplinary study of the design and uses of information and communication technologies (ICTs) that takes account of their interaction with institutional and cultural contexts. Social Informatics refers to the body of knowledge about, and the use of information technologies as influenced by institutional arrangements, social forces and organisational practices.

As Social Informatics is an interdisciplinary area, one of the wider aims of this Social Informatics website is to act as a focus, bringing together people in disparate subjects and locations, not only those in academia, but also business and the wider community, who have an interest in the area, or its related disciplines. This offers a showcase for the Organisational and Social Informatics concept to potential academic, community and business partners and an on-line gateway, to provide links with other sites and groups in the area.

Systems Research Network (SRN)

Address: An Inter-Faculty Research Network, Loughborough University, UK

The Systems Research Network at Loughborough University, it is a cross-faculty research group using systems methods and sociotechnical approaches in the field of Information Systems Design and Development. The Systems Research Network (SRN) is committed to the development and promotion of systems theory and practice, and the development of systems methods, models and concepts for bringing improvement to problem identification and problem-solving approaches.

SRN brings together systems researchers from across Loughborough University, each of whom is expert in a different domain but uses systems ideas in his or her research. The purpose of the Network is to provide a space for systems researchers to exchange ideas, integrate research knowledge and work collaboratively on trans-disciplinary research.

SRN researchers have expertise in the management of change; participative IS design approaches; entrepreneurship; the development of alternative research methods such as action research; Natural Language Modelling; simulation; social impacts of IT; cultural and gender issues and evaluation and measurement of success - all underpinned by the principles of systems theory.

SRN's main objective is to apply this expertise to complex social problems within different sectors, such as healthcare, public services and complex work environments. The Network is also committed to spreading skills in systems theory and practice amongst a wide community both within the University and to other associated groups.

Sociotechnical Activity Research (STAR)

Address: University of Wollongong, Australia

The STAR group was founded in 2001 by a collaborative group of Australian researchers working in Knowledge Management and the related areas of organisational learning, communities of practice, information systems and human-computer interaction.

The purpose of the group is to act as a focal point for knowledge management researchers throughout Australia and the world and to develop networks to promote collaboration and advance understanding. There is a sociotechnical emphasis in the work with particular reference to the Cultural-Historical Activity Theory. A Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council funds the group until 2005.

Virtual groups

Hard & Soft Systems Approach for Complex Systems Understanding

Members: Osvei Gelman, ( (UNAM, Mexico)
Manuel Mora, ( (UAA, Mexico)
Francisco Cervantes, ( (ITAM, Mexico)
Guisseppi Forgionne, ( (UMBC, USA)

The Hard & Soft Systems Approach for Complex Systems Understanding research group is presently in process of development. The research focus are Integration of Hard and Soft Systems Approaches, Foundations of Systems Theory (formal definitions) and Philosophical Assumptions for Systems Approach.

Individuals at Loughborough University

Members: Malcolm King, (
Neil Doherty, (
Crispin Coombs, (

Doherty & King have been conducting an on-going, quantitative study to explore the importance of organisational issues to the successful outcome of systems development projects and the ways by which project teams typically address such issues.

Doherty & Coombs have undertaken a number of qualitative studies into the ways in which information systems, within the NHS, impact upon the culture, working practices and structure of healthcare trusts. The broad aim of these studies is to identify new insights into how the management of organisational change, that typically accompanies IT implementations, can be improved.

Individual researchers

José Abdelnour-Nocera

Address: Institute for Information Technology, Thames Valley University, London, UK

Jose Abdelnour-Nocera is Senior Lecturer at the Institute for Information Technology, Thames Valley University. His interests lie in the design of people-centred systems, having worked in this area as both researcher and consultant in Latin America and Europe.

He has been involved in several projects in the UK and overseas in the areas of e-learning, including social development, e-commerce, e-government and enterprise resource planning systems. Dr. Abdelnour-Nocera gained an MSc in Social Psychology from Simon Bolivar University, Venezuela and a PhD in Computing from The Open University, UK.

Christopher Atkinson

Address: UMIST, Manchester, UK (from June 2004))

Christopher's research, theory development and consultancy work is essentially on how to create or change sociotechnical systems, centred around IS&T, in particular in healthcare and based on a StructurANTion Theoretical Framework (with Laurence Brooks see AMCIS 2003+2004 & IFIP 8.2 2002+2004) and the Soft Information Systems and Technologies Methodology, (SISTeM).

Michel Avital

Address: Case Western Reserve University, Ohio, USA

Michel's research focuses on the social and relational aspects of information and communication technologies. He believes that a human-centric orientation, in which people are seen as the core and the main driving force, is not only an ethical choice but also a practical approach to the study and design of technology-enabled human activity systems.

Combining both soft and hard methods, his research applies sociotechnical thinking to explore information systems project success, knowledge management, ubiquitous computing, social networks, virtual communities, positive modalities and appreciative inquiry.

Bill Bonner

Address: University of Regina, Canada

Bill is using Latour's Actor Network Theory to study the constitution and construction of modern issues of privacy. My specific focus is on examining the interplay between unexamined history, constantly changing scenarios, actors and technologies, and an increasingly narrow, rigid and questionably effect discourse framing the topic.

Elayne Coakes

Address: Westminster University, London, UK

Elayne Introduces sociotechnical aspects to all research being carried out, especially that of knowledge management.

Vladimir Diatlov

Address: University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Vladimir draws upon structuration theory, actor-network theory, some works of Bruno Latour, and some others from organisation studies for research into links between information technology and the organisation. Vladimir look into (1) sociotechnical structuration of coordination means and (2) formation of practice of technology use.

John D. Haynes

Address: University of Central Florida, Orlando, USA

John's information systems research work largely focuses on the impact of information technology on humans and the major way of 'seeing' that impact and designing systems accordingly is through phenomenology which is connected with sociotechnical systems.

Kalle Lyytinen

Address: Case Western Researve University, Ohio, USA
Kalle is interested in how to theoretically capture the role of mediating communication and information technology artifacts in the context of cooperatively organised work practices. Research emphasis lies in knowledge distribution and sharing in globally managed complex projects that rely on IT systems and artifacts as important boundary objects and the design and impacts of pervasive computing environments for distributed organisational work.

Yogesh Malhotra

Address: Syracuse University, New York, USA

Yogesh's applied research and teaching focus on technology and innovation management, corporate strategy, and business performance issues related to information systems, e-business, knowledge management, decision modelling, and, new business models.

Yogesh's fundamental research focus is on understanding how to create self-adaptive human, organisational, technological, and societal systems that can withstand radical discontinuous change. An additional research focus is on understanding the socio-psychological and strategic factors affecting the adoption, acceptance, use and performance of information and communication systems and knowledge management systems.

Manuel Mora

Address: Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes, Mexico


The work being carried out by Manuel has developed a research method that takes advantage of the strengths of Checkland's SSM and Forrester's SD approaches, where social and technical complex systems are studied with similar methods under the Bhaskar's Critical Realism Philosophy assumptions of ontological assumptions, epistemological assumprions, and axiological assumptions.

Wanda Orlikowski

Address: MIT School of Management, Massachusetts, USA

In examining the organisational changes associated with the use of information technology, Wanda investigates the ongoing relationship between information technologies and organising structures, work practices, communication, culture, and control mechanisms. Wanda has conducted extensive studies on the use of groupware technologies and electronic media in organisations, and has explored the social and technological aspects of working virtually

Rafael Ramirez

Address: University of Oxford, UK

Rafael has studied sociotechnical systems design from the point of view of work safety -and to a lesser extent health. Rafael has also written extensively on the role of literacy in terms of safety (it is not the illiteracy of the worker that counts, but the job design that matters). More recently, with one of my doctoral students, I have worked on the relationship between sociotechnical systems theory and practice and software design.

Frans M. Van Eijnatten

Address: Eindhoven, University of Technology, the Netherlands

Frans' main research activities are development and application of the sociotechnical approach of Integral Organisational Renewal (IOR), in industrial and service organisations. This work has been carried out tthrough documenting the field, (action) research and teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Andrew Wenn

Address: Victoria University, Melbourne Australia

Andrew is currently researching the way the internet is used in libraries. His research takes a sociotechnical viewpoint where he shows that not only are the technologies changing the way libraries are being used but users and librarians are also involved in the configuration of the technologies. One of main benefits of this research will be that information practitioners will have new insights into technology adoption and use, and the way users can better benefit from technologies.


Copenhagen Business School

Address: Frederiksberg, Denmark

At the Copenhagen Business School's BSc/MSc programme in Computer Science and Business Administration has a strong sociotechnical element embedded in its final course on definition of information systems where the students' learn about sociotechnical principles and have to apply them in a project in the Danish industry or public sector.


The Bayswater Institute

Address: London, UK


A major part of the work of the Bayswater Institute is sociotechnical in character. It is most often undertaken within an action research frame of reference where we are helping a client organisation with some form of diagnosis, evaluation, design or change process.

Projects include working with the Estates Department of a Mental Health Trust to help them review the sociotechnical system by which they deal with thousands of requests for maintenance, working with MIMAS at Manchester University on the evaluation of digital library services they provide to British Universities and looking at the consequences for the working practices of academics and students and for the services provided by local libraries and working with a large construction company on the implications for sharing knowledge and for teamwork of the use of document management systems and internal knowledge-based search engines.

In addition to project based work we pursue sociotechnical objectives in other ways. Lisl Klein, for example, is currently editing two books which summarise the large number of sociotechnical studies she has conducted during her career. The Bayswater Institute is also planning a sociotechnical course.

Tavistock Institute

Address: Tavistock Institute, London, UK


The Tavistock Institute purpose is to contribute to human wellbeing and development by advancing the theory, methodology and evaluation of change within and between groups, communities, organisations and wider society. We do this by carrying out research and consultancy, running professional development activities, and producing publications. The Institute use ideas and methods from across the social sciences to help their clients understand, engage with, and take action in complex situations.

These situations include managing change and innovation; problems of policy and practice; and organisational behaviour and design. Work includes projects with government, industry, and non-government organisations in Britain, Europe and further afield. The Tavistock Institute work in education and training, health, work organisation, partnerships and supply chains; employment and social inclusion; regional and rural development; and social care and focus on social, organisational and policy dynamics through action research, organisational analysis and formative evaluation.