Professor Enid Mumford prize established in the Department of Computer Science

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Enid Mumford prize image

Image of Enid Mumford

Earlier this year the Department of Computer Science introduced a new award, the 'Professor Enid Mumford Prize'. The prize is awarded to a student taking the "Designing Systems for the Digital Society" course (COMP107), for their contribution to promoting ethical practices in System Design, as determined by a judging panel formed by academics and industrial experts and convened for the Year in Industry activity week.

Professor Enid Mumford was a Computer Scientist and Sociologist, who was particularly recognised for her work on human factors in Information System design. Born in Wallasey, Merseyside, Professor Mumford received a BA in Social Science from the University of Liverpool in 1946. After this she joined the Faculty of Social Science at the University of Liverpool in 1956. After one year in the USA she became Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Manchester Business School. This was extremely impressive as she was the first woman to hold a full professorship at a UK business school. She was also the Director of the Computer and Work Design Research Unit. Professor Mumford was awarded the US Warnier prize for her contributions to Information Science, and the Leo lifetime achievement award of the Association for Information Systems, the only British recipient of the award. 

Professor Mumford devised an approach to system design called ETHICS (Effective Technical & Human Implementation of Computer-based Systems). The basic principle of this is that social context and human activities are at the centre of the design.

We spoke to Professor Mumford's son, Dr Colin Mumford, who along with his sister Michele, enthusiastically gave permission for the prize to be named in honour of their mother. Regarding the prize Colin believes that Professor Mumford “would have been thrilled to see her work being commemorated in this way, and delighted by the outstanding work being done by young researchers in her home region of North West England”

Giving us further insight into the work of Professor Mumford Colin stated, "I think Mum felt proudest that she was a woman who reached the top in an academic field which had previously been dominated by men, especially in the 1960’s and 70’s. When the Warnier and Leo awards were made towards the end of her career, she was truly delighted, since she considered them in part to be a recognition of the work of all the female academics in the field of sociology. It was only when I realised that my Mum had her own page on Wikipedia that I appreciated how influential her work had been. I knew that her early recognition (in the 1950’s), that the arrival of information technology in the workplace would be viewed with caution and scepticism by the workforce, was a unique perspective. As a boy I was astonished to find that my Mum had written a book on that subject. ‘The Computer and the Clerk” written together with Olive Keydon, who was also on the staff in Liverpool in the 1960’s, was published in 1967. I guess increasing automation and replacement of the workforce with computerised systems continues apace in the current world, and that is where the ETHICS approach remains applicable. From my perspective it’s fabulous that her work continues to be of relevance today."

The Department is grateful for the connection we have with Professor Enid Mumford. Dr Floriana Grasso, the module coordinator of the course associated with the prize, said she "is delighted to now have an award named after a woman who achieved so much in her field, and will be an inspiration to many future Computer Scientists".

The first edition of the prize was decided by a winning poster entry, after 50 of the nearly 300 posters submitted were shortlisted and displayed at the Cybersecurity session of the “Ignite Your Future” event. The poster competition was organised by Year 2 students on the Year in Industry programme, and supported by academic staff and Careers & Employability. A panel formed by staff, student, alumni and the industry speakers present at the event selected the winner. 

The first Professor Enid Mumford prize was awarded to student James Herbert. James' poster focused on the "right to repair" highlighting the ethical issue of manufacturers making electrical devices harder to repair (e.g. using proprietary connectors, or fixing batteries to chassis) which in turn generates more waste.



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