OZP projects available

I have a strong preference for bachelor projects that are aligned with the Responsible Software research line. Once I have filled my available slots, I only accept projects in this domain.

These projects are available, see more details below:

You may also want to read this research roadmap paper for ideas on potential OZP projects on Responsible Software.

Reducing the energy consumption of UU desktop computers, despite the impossibility of a certain hibernate/sleep modes

Context:The ITS department of the UU is looking for sustainable solutions for student desktop computers in study area’s. These desktops are often running while they are not in use. The screens automatically go in Standby-mode, for the desktops a different solution needs to be found to reduce energy usage. This solution should allow the ITS department to provide the same service to users as before.

Challenge: What is a sustainable solution for a Sleep-, Standby- Hybernate- or Hybrid sleep modus to reduce energy consumption of UU desktops?

Approach: First existing possible solutions need to becompared, but most likely a new tool needs to be designed. This tool should be suitable for at least two types of Windows Desktops. The ITS department would like to investigate what risks they face regarding the test and use phase and how this can be done.

Problem owners: Jeroen Schippers en Shashi Yadav , from the Information and Technology Services (ITS) department (webpage).

Several projects around the development of a socio-environmental auditing tool

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Context: Every now and then, responsible enterprises want to know whether they are having a good impact in society and in the environment, either to redefine the organisational strategy, to acquire funding from philanthropy investors or ethical banks, to address consumer segments concerned with sustainability, or to reengineer the company. Socio-environmental auditing (SEA) is the process of assessing and reporting the social and environmental effects of a company’s economic actions to particular interest groups within society and to society at large. More and more enterprises are performing SEA themselves or requesting this service from consulting companies. There exist plenty of SEA methods and measurement frameworks; e.g. Common Good Balance, Fair Trade, Global Reporting Initiative, ISO 26000, ISO 14000. Since current SEA tools do not interoperate, an enterprise that wants to conduct two distinct socio-environmental audits has to enter most of the information twice. Many responsible enterprises dream of a tool that is flexible enough to support several SEA methods. We are planning to build one! It will be open-source, model-driven, and highly configurable. But there are many challenges ahead.

We need motivated students that want to make a good impact with their research! Are you in?

Developing a Google add-on to support user-defined indicators for socio-environmental auditing

Challenge: We need to create a user-friendly tool to let organisations define their own socio-environmental indicators, and a file format to enable interoperability with other future components of the SEA tool.

Approach: In this project, you will engineer the requirements, design and develop a configurable Google-based tool that will enable users define their own socio-environmental indicators. The users will define their indicators in a Google Sheet and then run an add-on to generate an XML file that contains the definitions of those indicators. In follow-up projects, such files will allow interoperability with other components of the SEA tool. To engineer the requirements you will conduct elicitation interviews, document the requirements concisely using text and the necessary diagrams and validate the requirements with the users. To implement the add-on you will use Google Apps Scripts. You will document the lessons learned during the project but not need to write a lengthy OZP report. However, the final tool should really fulfil the needs, so you will need to test the tool with users to demonstrate this.

Result: The practical outcome of this project is a tool that allows end users define socio-environmental indicators. The scientific contribution is a collection of lessons learned regarding the production of an end-user development framework.

Student profile: It is a very practical and useful project. You do not need to be a super-proficient programmer, but you definitely need to be smart enough to understand and tweak scripts. If you have skills in creating spreadsheet formulas, this project might be for you!

An experiment to compare several mathematical languages to specify sustainability indicators

Challenge: Stakeholders in organisations should be able to define their own socio-environmental indicators. This requires that they use some sort of formula (e.g. one of many indicators to assess gender equity in a company is Female Executive Ratio = Number of female staff in executive positions / Number of executive positions in the company). There are many mathematical languages available (e.g. MathML, LaTeX, troff/eqn, AsciiMath, Excel or Google Sheet formulas) but their user-friendliness has not been demonstrated.

Approach: In this project, you will compare the mathematical languages with respect to their their comprehensibility and usability. To do this, you will (i) perform a literature review to collect a list of candidate languages, (ii) specify a set of 18 sustainability indicators in each language, (iii) perform a controlled experiment in which subjects have to understand the indicators and also define new ones, (iv) analyse and discuss the findings, and select the most convenient language.

Result: The practical outcome of this project is that we can confidently select a mathematical language that is useful and usable. The scientific contribution is the report of the comparison, which includes a rigorous experiment.

Student profile: You should have some knowledge on the research methods required by this project. I only want a student who is committed, rigorous and writes well in English. We will write scientific paper if you do a good job, contributing to a high grade.

A review of model-driven technologies that could be used for a socio-environmental auditing tool

Challenge: The socio-environmental auditing (SEA) tool we want to develop is model-driven, in order to facilitate its configuration via models. There are plenty of model-driven tool development environments available in the market, some of them even free. However, their features vary a lot and, in the case of the open-source ones, their software ecosystem is not always reliable (e.g. they could be discontinued abruptly). We need to make an informed decision.

Approach: In this project, you will review and compare interface modelling languages and model-driven tools to generate or interpret interfaces, as well as technologies for automatically generating documents such as PDF files and websites. These will include model-driven tools of several natures (e.g. model-driven transformation environments, libraries, plug-ins). You will first elicit and define a set of comparison criteria, to make their analysis more rigorous. To gather the information of each technology, you will review the literature (including scientific papers, tool websites and technical manuals), contact the tool developers or software vendors if needed (e.g. to know about the licensing), or even people who have experience with that technology (e.g. developers of a project that used those tools). You will also define feature models of each technology. You will discuss the findings and recommend one or a combination of several technologies. You will outline the software architecture needed to make them work properly.

Result: The practical outcome of this project is that we can be confident on selecting a (set of) reliable and powerful model-driven technology for our project. The scientific contribution is the report of the comparison, which includes a rigorous feature analysis.

Student profile: I only want a student who is committed, rigorous, reads and writes well in English, can create software architecture diagrams.


A repository of enterprise models and software for corporate democracy

Context: More enterprises than we imagine practice some form of democracy. Examples range from shareholders electing the executive board members to staff members getting involved in operational or even strategic decisions. Enterprises that encourage employees to become closely involved in decision-making processes, granting them high degrees of autonomy, intend to increase employee engagement and commitment and to increase the agility of the company. Other benefits are a better development of the individuals and, eventually, having a positive impact in society.

Challenge: The objective of this project is to investigate successful cases of corporate democracy and creating enterprise models that represent the best practices. It is also key to know what software tools help supporting corporate democracy.

Approach: The investigation entails reading corporate documents (e.g. company website, sustainability reports) and conducting interviews. The creation of enterprise models consists on specifying several complementary views of the democratic practices (e.g. goal model, organisation chart, business process model, business rules, information structure), along with a description of the supporting software they might use. The repository will be finally supported using Google tools (e.g. Sites, Docs, Sheets, etc.).

Result: The result is a collection of context-dependent best practices for corporate democracy, to be used by consultants and independent software vendors interested in this domain.

Student profile: You will need to have some social skills so as to perform interviews, write in good English, and use diagramming tools effectively (e.g. OmniGraffle, Visio, Lucidchart, Archi).


How socio-environmental auditing in enterprises is impacting their ICT

(This project requires a minimum of 2 students and a maximum of 6, working as a team, each interviewing different companies)

Context: Responsible enterprises perform accordingly to ethical values, taking care of the impact of their activities on society and on the environment, beyond their legal obligations. Every now and then, they want to know whether they are doing well so they perform a socio-environmental audit. As a result they do not only produce a report with sustainability indicators but they typically define a set of improvement actions, by which they commit to improve their impact (e.g. reduce energy consumption, recycle e-waste better, issue policies to enhance the work-life balance of their employees).

Challenge: There is little knowledge on the impact that these commitments on the information and communication technology (ICT) of these organisations. Given the lack of standards in qualitative sustainability reporting, shedding light to this issue requires a case by case analysis.

Approach: The students that select this project will gather information about organisations that conduct socio-environmental auditing, in order to find out the improvement actions they defined by over the years and the actual impact of these. To do this, you will collect sustainability reports available in company websites and repositories, and you will also conduct interviews with enterprise stakeholders. Then you will properly analyse the results with Nvivo to come up with evidence-based conclusions. Collaterally, you will also investigate the perceived limitations of current tools that support socio-environmental auditing.

Result: A report categorising and explaining the types of improvement actions that organisations are committing to, placing special focus on those that affect ICT (e.g. reducing energy consumption, procuring new software to monitor pollution, making part of their software products open-source to increase transparency). An account on the actual impact of these actions on the ICT of these organisations. All information about the enterprises that is made public will be properly anonymised.

Student profile: This project requires a minimum of 2 students and a maximum of 6, working as a team, each interviewing different companies. You should have enough social skills to conduct interviews and be proactive enough to find your way to the proper stakeholders (I can point you to lists of companies performing socio-environmental auditing). Each student can interview companies from countries where they speak their language, but the report has to be written in good English (including literal translation of relevant quotes). Knowing how to use Nvivo is convenient but you can also learn on the fly. You should be motivated to work on a topic related with sustainability.

Data and text analytics over YouTube titles, descriptions and tags: a simple SEO tool for freelance content developers

Context: YouTube content creators often desire to attract large quantities of viewers to their channel, videos and playing lists. Evidently, a high-quality content is one of the key factors for sustainable audience growth, if not the major one. However, a proper search engine optimisation strategy is also important. Titles, descriptions and tags stand out as the main elements used for YouTube video positioning. However, little is known about the best practices that content creators can use. Such knowledge would benefit market entrants by giving them tips on how to name, describe and tag their videos to enhance the opportunities for visualisation.

Challenge: Some tools exist that provide insights on the YouTube videos data and meta-data (e.g. vidIQ). However, these tools still have potential for improvement, based on state-of-the-art analysis methods. How can apply these methods to provide useful insights for new YouTube market entrants such as freelancers?

Approach: During this project, you will review current technologies for YouTube analytics and search-engine optimisation (SEO). You will gather requirements for an improved tool by means of gathering user stories from potential users. Then you will build on top of one (or several) of the existing technologies in order to build a dashboard and a recommender tool. The tool interface will be in English but the analysis methods should be language-independent. Finally you will validate the new tool in collaboration with at least three users. One is a children’s music video composer I know. You can also approach your favourite youtuber. The third one would ideally be a non-freelance stakeholder, in order to explore a different scenario; e.g. a Utrecht University YouTube channel manager. The project management will be agile, so the tool will be developed iteratively, in an incremental way.

Result: The practical outcome of this project is a usable SEO tool for freelance YouTube content developers, based on text analytics. One potential scenario of use is the following. The user provides the tool with several tentative titles for a video, a description and a set of potentially relevant tags. The tool will return a list of tags (some of the ones provided by the user and some might be recommended by the tool) that are most convenient to increase the number of views.

Student profile: You should be skilled in data and text analytics and web-based development. Only pick this project if you are sure that you will enjoy it. The document can be short (paper format plus appendices if necessary). But the tool really needs to be easy to deploy, effective and usable.

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Mapping study of business ethics serious games

Context: Serious games can be used to foster, teach, and train in business ethic values. For instance, the NCR co-op game promotes and trains entrepreneurs and company staff in business cooperation, using an engaging game run on tablets (website). Also, the Deepwater game on business ethics (website).

Challenge: The practical challenge is to obtain a big picture of what has been done so far in serious gaming, in the domain of business ethics. The scientific challenge is to assess how effective these games are and to better understand what are the mechanisms by which they actually have an impact in the behaviour of companies.

Approach: To do this, you will conduct an intensive search of existing games and a survey sent to game development companies, and perhaps also some interviews, emails and phone calls. Then you will analyse the collected games. It would be interesting to know what other serious games like this exist in the market or in academia (i.e. non-commercial prototypes), what company or research group created them (e.g. game developer or independent software vendor), whether there is a business model behind this product, the success of this game, what type of companies are interested in the game (e.g. customers), what technologies they are built on, etc. This would bring insight on the current state of this serious gaming domain, what business ethic values remain to be addressed (opening opportunities from the industry and for research). In order to know what business ethics values they promote, you will map each game to a taxonomy of business ethic values (e.g. the 17 indicators of the Common Good Matrix). You can find more information on business ethics serious games in the Serious games society webpage. Some examples of games: Marketing mayhem, Deepwater,  Business ethics challenge. You will create a web-based repository with all the games and their detailed analysis; a candidate technology is a combination of Google Sites, Docs and Sheets. You will also investigate to what extent these games actually work; that is, whether they really succeed in promoting the positive values as their creators claim. To do this you can conduct interviews and surveys.

Result: The practical outcome of this project is a repository of information about responsible serious games that companies can use to promote and train their core corporate, social and environmental values. The scientific contribution is a conceptual model on business ethics serious gaming, knowledge about the state of the art in this domain, highlighting the gaps (the business responsibility values that are least covered by serious games) and the success factors (why and how these games actually achieve changes in business behaviour).

Student profile: I only want a student who is committed, rigorous, writes well in English, is proficient in conceptual modelling, and thinks she/he will enjoy this project. We will write scientific paper if you do a good job, contributing to a high grade.


Your own proposal concerning a reengineering project in which an enterprise is intending to increase their sustainability

Do you know a company (e.g. social enterprise) or an organisation (e.g. NGO, charity foundation) that is trying to increase their corporate democracy, transparency towards citizens, the sustainability of their work practices, the responsibility of their supply chain, etc.? Do they want to conduct a socio-environmental auditing project (e.g. Economy for the Common Good, Global Reporting Initiative, B-Corp)? Are they really committed and you are sure it is not just greenwashing? Then we can turn that into an exciting OZP! You will need to have basic consultancy skills, write in good English, and use diagramming tools effectively (e.g. OmniGraffle, Visio, Lucidchart, Archi). Send me your proposal!

Automating educational workflows with Google scripts

(Up to 4 students can work in this project as a team, each supporting a different course)

Context: Managing courses is time-consuming. Educators are increasingly relying on SaaS and cloud technologies for sharing course material, checking attendance, grading, receiving and giving feedback to students. But the level of adoption of some technologies is still low.

Challenge: Scripting languages can be useful for automating part of the educational workflows. Also, many open-source plugins and extensions are available and can be reused (see formRanger and autoCrat); they offer powerful features with a low configuring effort. How to properly support the educational workflows with a combination of these technologies is still an open challenge.

Approach: The students who pick this project will be assigned a specific course (from the Informatiekunde bachelor or the Master in Business Informatics). They will elicit the requirements of the lecturer, select the most appropriate scripts and plugins, and configure them to support the needs of the course. They will also investigate the factors that impact the adoption of such technologies and document the lessons learned.

Results: The practical outcome of this project is automating some of the tasks related to managing a given course; this is expected to alleviate the lecturers’ workload and improve the students learning experience. The scientific contribution is gathering knowledge on the factors that influence the adoption of new technologies in education and contributing the lessons learned from the practical experience, to pave the way for future similar projects.

Student profile: It is a very practical and useful project. You do not need to be a super-proficient programmer, but you definitely need to be smart enough to understand and tweak scripts. If you have skills in creating spreadsheet formulas, this project might be for you!


Analysing the Panama papers data

(We already have a team of students working in this project, each analysing the data from a different perspective… Do you want to join them?)

A dataset with the Panama papers information has recently been released https://panamapapers.icij.org With the proper theory about business ethics and the functioning of offshoring, some network analysis and data visualisation techniques, we could produce interesting and insightful results! We need a database of enterprise information to to annotate the data and further connect the dots (e.g. Chamber of Commerce). We could visualisations such as this one.

You will need to have skills on data analytics and write in good English.

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Running an experiment about a method to model and analyse the sustainability impacts of a software system

The Software Sustainability Assessment method (SoSA) enables software developers to specifically consider the impact of an existing or envisioned software system, in relation to several sustainability dimensions; namely,  economic, technical, environmental and social. After a few practical experiences, a new version of the SoSA method is under development.

In this project, the student will design and run an experiment to test the SoSA method. The supervisor will aid during the design, to ensure that the research questions are relevant, the experimental protocol is rigorous and the experimental tools are valid. The execution of the experiment is performed independently by the student, who will enrol subjects for the experiments (e.g. student fellows, practitioners s/he knows), explain the tasks and collect and analyse the data.

Some research interesting research questions  are the following:

  • Is there a difference in the performance of subjects depending on the support for modelling? We can compare paper-based and software-based modelling (e.g. with Lucidchart).
  • What types of sustainability issues do the subjects identify as relevant for each of the software systems used as cases during the experiment?
  • What are the perceptions of the users about the SoSA method?
  • Is there a difference in the performance and perceptions of subjects depending on the version of the SoSA method they applied?

As a result of this project, the student will write a paper reporting on the experiment. If the paper has enough quality, we will attempt publishing it.