Research that Matters

Our vision of making a positive difference in how people live, work and build in a digital world is reflected in how we choose our research projects: we focus on real-world concerns, in real life, around the world. The vision is equally reflected in how we perform the research projects: we are on the ground, working with educators, developers, families, policy makers, doctors and nurses, patients, standards bodies, designers, community members and many others.

Sometimes, our work results in deeper understandings and reflections that alter the perceptions and subsequent actions of the people and organizations we work with. Other times, we deliver concrete results – innovative tools, technologies, methodologies – that become part of professional or personal practice. Yet other times, we bring new theoretical perspectives that shape our fields of research, driving it in exciting new directions.

Regardless of outcome, we seek to bring our results back to the people, communities and partners that provide us with the inspiration and settings for our research. A sample of the results:

  • Graduate student Jed Brubaker‘s work studying how relatives and friends cope with and interact with the ‘digital afterlife’ upon someone’s passing directly influenced Facebook’s recently released policy on postmortem account stewardship.
  • Professor Bill Tomlinson and his wife Rebecca Black (associate professor in UC Irvine’s School of Education) released an educational iPad app called the Seed Cycle that helps children learn about plant pollination and growth and is currently in use in dozens of schools around the world.
  • Professor Geoffrey Bowker‘s long history of working on the forefront of data, information and information technology has led to him being a founding member of the Council for Big Data, Ethics, and Society, a group that helps researchers, practitioners and the public understand the social, cultural and ethical issues in the fields of big data and data analytics.
  • The work of professor Richard Taylor‘s research group in software and internet architectures led the way in developing the core web standards HTTP/1.1 and WebDAV, as well as provided key leadership for the Apache web server project.
  • In a close working relationship with Google, professors Judy and Gary are looking at what makes for good collaboration through technology, research that is resulting in some feature changes to Google Apps and some recommendations about how to capitalize on cross-cultural diversity in groups.
  • Nick Mangano, a former Ph.D. student of professor André van der Hoek who completed his dissertation on software design sketching in 2013, is currently leading a startup ( that is commercializing the technology for broad use.
  • Helping epidemiologists assess colon cancer risk in thousands of people, professor Donald J. Patterson is deploying a mobile data collection tool in clinics through Orange County and Jordan.
  • Professor Melissa Mazmanian’s research with Leslie Perlow from Harvard Business School on how to restructure work teams to enable predictable time off has been embraced by numerous large organizations including Boston Consulting Group.
  • Informatics researcher Matt Bietz is working with professors Gary and Judy Olson on the Collaboration Success Wizard, a free online diagnostic survey that has helped organizations use their strengths and address their weaknesses in making their collaborations more successful.
  • Studying multitasking in organizations, professor Gloria Mark and her students have revealed the stress and other kinds of effects that working with digital media has on information workers, leading to recommendations for policy change of IT use in major organizations, including a U.S. Army research complex.
  • vidCoach is a training tool for persons with autism available in the iTunes app store, and is the result of the work of a team of undergraduates under the guidance of professor Gillian Hayes.
  • Based on his work about the role of information technology in sustainability, professor Bill Tomlinson was recently named to the Environmental Protection Agency‘s Board of Scientific Counselors, joining the Sustainable and Healthy Communities subcommittee.
  • Advising the Future Internet Architecture projects funded by the National Science Foundation, the Values in Design Council relies on the deep expertise in values in design of professor Geoffrey Bowker to help these projects design architectures that are not just sound technically, but also reflect key values such as equality, access and privacy.

Seed Cycle​, a fun educational app that teaches children about plant growth and pollination, is in use in dozens of schools around the world.