Inaugural Lecture at The Open University by Professor Bashar Nuseibeh , 12th February 2002

Vote of Thanks, Professor Michael Jackson

Vice Chancellor, Professor Nuseibeh, ladies and gentlemen: It is a great honour to have been asked to thank Professor Nuseibeh for his Inaugural Lecture. As the Vice-Chancellor said, an inaugural lecture is a very special occasion. There is a well-established custom that an inaugural lecture takes place not at the beginning of the tenure of a Chair but only later, after the eminent lecturer has occupied the Chair for some time. At first this may seem puzzling. But in fact it is entirely appropriate. It allows the professor's colleagues time to have worked with him, and to have learned something of his quality. I am lucky to have been able to work with Bashar during the past year, here at The Open University, to my great enlightenment and profit, and I am very grateful for that. And as the Vice-Chancellor said in her introduction, to inaugurate the tenure of a Chair is more than to make a beginning. As its etymology indicates, it is also to make that tenure auspicious, to make it significant of the future, and to ensure its good fortune.

Professor Nuseibeh has come to the Open University with well-earned renown from his previous work at Imperial College. Among the subjects of that work that he has described today are two very important concepts in Software Requirements Engineering: Viewpoints, and the Toleration and Management of Inconsistency. Each of these ideas is more than a technical contribution: it is a vital influence in shaping a more human and more humane approach to the development of software, recognising that many different people have a stake in a system, and that their points of view may be not merely different but inconsistent, and in active conflict.

Professor Nuseibeh quoted Emerson in praise of inconsistency. He might also have quoted another American, Walt Whitman, who famously said: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes." Software developers and requirements engineers must be equipped by their education and their technology to be large, to contain multitudes, to deal honestly with the variety and conflict and contradiction of human experience, and to resolve or reconcile these differences where resolution or reconciliation is possible.

Professor Nuseibeh: your inaugural lecture has given us all great amusement, great pleasure and great illumination today. On behalf of us all, I thank you for that lecture, and tell you that we are now looking forward to your continued tenure of the chair to the great benefit and advantage of the University, of your postgraduates students and of all of your colleagues, now and in the years to come. May your tenure be auspicious, may it be significant of the future, and may it be attended by every good fortune. Thank you very much.

Last updated: 25th March 2002