Jim Howe

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About Jim Howe 

Professor Emeritus Jim Howe was educated at the Universities of St Andrews and Cambridge where he studied Experimental Psychology. Upon graduation he worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Cambridge with Professor Richard Gregory and then went on to become a founding member of the Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception (re-organised to form the Department of Artificial Intelligence in 1974 and now the School of Informatics). He was appointed to the new Chair of Artificial Intelligence in 1985, from which he retired in 1997.

Currently Prof Howe is a generous sponsor of outstanding Artificial Intelligence students at the School of Informatics.

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Principal activities

Jim Howe was a founding member of the Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception at Edinburgh University which was established in October 1966 to undertake basic research into artificial and biological learning, reasoning and perceiving systems. He acted as Deputy Head of Department from 1967-1970 and Acting Head from1970-1971. From 1969-1974, he was in charge of the Department’s Bionics Research Laboratory which carried out research in robotics and educational computing.

In 1974, an internal reorganisation led to the formation of the Department of Artificial Intelligence where Prof Howe was appointed Deputy Head of Department and then Head in 1977, which office he held until 1996.

Under his leadership, over the next two decades the Department became a world centre of excellence for both teaching and research in Artificial Intelligence, contributing to the University’s Grade 5 ratings in Computer Science achieved in successive Research Assessment Exercises and to its Excellent rating for teaching Computer Studies in the Teaching Quality Assessment. Besides establishing highly successful postgraduate programmes with an annual complement of 50 Masters and 50 Ph.D. students drawn from more than 20 countries outside Europe, he, along with colleagues, pioneered a number of novel undergraduate joint degree programmes with Computer Science, Linguistics, Mathematics and Psychology.

For over thirty years, Prof Jim Howe had a passionate interest in transferring the results of leading edge AI research to business and commerce. In 1969, he, along with Professor Donald Michie, and Professor Andrew Colin joined forces to found the first ever AI spin-off company, Conversational Software Ltd. It traded successfully for a number of years, developing and marketing AI programming language systems to large software houses, before being taken over by Systems Consultants Ltd. In 1984, in response to a significant increase in demand from industry for support in the use of Knowledge Based Systems provoked by the Alvey initiative, Prof Howe founded the AI Applications Institute within Edinburgh University, and acted as its Chairman from 1984-1997. In many respects, AIAI was an experiment concerned with developing ways of successfully transferring leading edge AI methods and techniques to companies, both in the UK and overseas. With a turnover approaching £1M per annum, it quickly achieved a reputation as a world centre of excellence for Applied AI, with about half its income from overseas clients.

In addition to these achievements, Prof Howe was also a member of 28 Faculty/Senatus/Court Committees, including Senatus, 1977-97; Educational Policy, 1986-97; Dean’s Advisory Group, 1986-1997; EU Management School’s Supervisory Board, 1992-1996, and the University Court, 1994-1997.

Research contributions

Prof Howe's research work concentrated on the innovative uses of computers in primary, secondary and special education, but also included some work in intelligent robotics and machine vision. About 100 scientific publications.

Research grants

42 grants and contracts from ESRC, EPSRC and other funding bodies, totalling £2.5M.

Other research activities

Over 60 guest lectures in UK and overseas; organiser/member of organising committees of 15 conferences and symposia; member of editorial boards of 5 journals.

External research assessment

Member/chairman research review panels/committees at Aberdeen, Essex, Loughborough, Nottingham, Open University, Queen Mary and Westfield, Strathclyde, and Sussex, 1983- 1997.

Professional societies

Society for the Study of Artificial Intelligence and Simulation of Behaviour (SAISB), 1972-date. Treasurer, 1974-77; Vice-Chairman, 1979-82; Chairman, 1982-85; American Association for Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), 1982-date.

European Co-ordinating Committee for Artificial Intelligence (ECCAI).

Professional recognition

Fellow AAAI 1994-, for contributions to the design of learning environments, AI technology transfer, and the promotion of AI research in the United Kingdom.

Life Fellow, SSAISB, 1999 -, for contributions to AI.

Life Fellow, ECCAI, 1999 -.for contributions to AI.

Postgraduate supervision and external examining

Principal supervisor of 17 Ph.D. students; external examiner for 5 postgraduate students.

Chair committees

Member of 15 chair committees at Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Leeds, Open University, Sussex and Warwick.

Public service

Member/chairman of 36 external committees, including;

Governor, Scottish Council for Educational Technology (appointed by Secretary of State for Scotland), 1981-84;

Member, Steering Committee, Scottish Microelectronics Development Programme, 1981-83;

Member, SERC Engineering Board Computing Committee, 1981-84; SERC Information Engineering

Committee, 1983-87; SERC Computing Science Sub-Committee, 1983-85.

Chairman, Alvey Programme IKBS Advisory Group, 1983-88;

Chairman, SERC/IATP Systems Engineering Committee Sub-Committee A, 1988-91;

Member, Ordnance Survey Science and Technology Advisory Committee (appointed by Secretary of State for Industry), 1987-92.;

Member, Joint Research Council Cognitive Science and HCI Committee, 1988-1993.

Selected publications

Artificial Intelligence and Computer-assisted Instruction: Ten Years on. Programmed Learning and Educational Technology, 1978, 15, 114-125. Reprinted in Selected Readings in Computer Based Learning (Ed.) Rushby. London: Kogan Page, 1982.

A New Deal? Using Computers to Teach Children with Communication Difficulties, McGill Journal of Education, 1979, XIV, 3, 343-352.

Developmental Stages in Learning to Program. In Cognition and Memory (Eds) Klix and Hoffman, Berlin: Deutscher Verlag, 1980, 253-263. Also published as Advances in Psychology 5, Amsterdam: North Holland, 1980.

Learning Through Model Building. In Expert Systems in the Micro-Electronic Age (Ed.) Michie, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1980, 215-225. Reprinted as Nuts and Bolts Fix in Learning Processes, Practical Computing, 1980, 3, 92-96.

Teaching Mathematics Through Programming in the Classroom (with P.M. Ross, K. Johnson, F. Plane and R. Inglis). Computers and Education, 1982, 6, 85-91. Reprinted in Studying the Novice Programmer, (Eds) Soloway and Spohrer. Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1989, 43-56.

The Microelectronics Revolution : a Challenge to Education. In Scottish Educational Review : Special Issue on Microelectronics in Education (Guest Editor Howe), Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press,1982. Reprinted as Towards a Pupil Centred Classroom, In World Yearbook of Education 1982/83 Computers in Education (Eds) McGarry, Walker, Nisbet & Hoyle. London: Kogan Page, 1983.

Edinburgh LOGO : A Retrospective View. In An Attitude of Mind (Ed.) Dockrell, Edinburgh: The Scottish Council for Research in Education, 1983, 77-87.

Novel Uses of Computers in Secondary School Classrooms. In Proceedings of the 4th World Conference on Computers in Education (Eds) Duncan and Harris, Amsterdam: North Holland, 1985, 595-600.

IKBS : Setting the Scene. In Intelligent Knowledge Based Systems (Eds) O’Shea, Self and Thomas.London: Harper and Row, 1987, 1-14.

Map-free Localisation in a Partially Moving 3D World: the Edinburgh Feature Based Navigator (with J. Hallam and P. Forster). In Proceedings of the Intelligent Autonomous Systems 2 Conference, Amsterdam, 1989.

Artificial Intelligence at Edinburgh University: A Perspective, June 2007, http://www.inf.ed.ac.uk/about/AIhistory.html