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Complex systems

Many people carry a network capable device in their pocket.

The SocialNets project asks if human social structures can be harnessed to help adapt and improve networks?

School research in areas related to large scale systems, data analytics at scale, multi-criteria optimisation and human/social computation.

Our research spans four key themes: (i) cybersecurity; (ii) social and mobile computing; (iii) parallel and distributed systems; (iv) multi-criteria optimisation and mathematical modelling. Underpinning these key areas are issues of scale and complexity, with a particular emphasis on human/systems interaction. Most of the research is carried out in collaboration with colleagues internationally (in Europe, US, Singapore and Australia).

Our cybersecurity work covers aspects of information and mobile data security and location privacy, cyber risk in online social networks (e.g. malware propagation and analysis), security of industrial control systems (e.g. SCADA systems) and Cloud security. This aspect of our work links in with a number of other Schools at Cardiff University – such as Social Sciences, Mathematics and the Business School.

Our work in mobile and social computation covers aspects of machine classification and statistical modelling of online social behaviour, understanding human personality, studying interaction with smart phones, and data science-based approaches for assessing risk to human safety. This work has links with other Schools at Cardiff University -- such as Social Sciences and Psychology.

Our parallel and distributed systems work focuses on high performance and distributed systems, covering various aspects of large-scale distributed systems management and performance analysis (such as Edge and Social Clouds), personal "Data Lakes" and scientific workflow systems. There is also more fundamental work in numerical algorithms and mapping of these to GPUs. This work closely aligns with efforts in multi-criteria optimisation and mathematical modelling. This work has links with other Schools at Cardiff University -- such as Mathematics and Engineering.

The group manages the “Social Data Science Lab” and the “Internet of Things Lab”.

Research Expertise

Particular areas of strength and expertise in the School include:

  • Augmented and mixed reality
  • Cell planning and spectrum assignment for 3G and 4G mobile systems
  • Computational spectral theory and inverse problems
  • Computational steering
  • Data analysis and signal processing
  • Emergent paradigms for pervasive services using ambient networking
  • Grid-based, parallel & distributed computing and pervasive computing
  • Heuristic, meta-heuristic and evolutionary search for combinatorial optimization
  • Mesh networks
  • Naturally viewed 3D displays
  • Problem-solving and immersive visualization environments
  • Remote rendering
  • Stochastic modelling of information propagation in opportunistic communication networks
  • Wireless LAN systems, e.g. WiMax


  • Improving training of ultrasound scanner operators using visualisation and simulation
  • Automating e-Science workflows: the TRIANA workbench
  • Planning mobile phone networks using optimisation algorithms

Student Contributions

Recent successful PhD students have submitted the following theses:

  • I. Flood - Graph theoretic methods for radio equipment selection
  • K. Harwood - Investigation into Heuristic Methods of Solving Time Variant Vehicle Routing Problems
  • E. Al Shakarchi - Scalable Audio Processing Across Heterogeneous Distributed Resources: An Investigation into Distributed Audio Processing for Music Information Retrieval
  • I. Kelley - Secure Decentralized Data-Sharing in Dynamic Distributed Networks
  • A. Elwaer - Optimisation Techniques for Data Distribution in Volunteer Computing
  • M. Chorley - Performance engineering of hybrid message passing and shared memory programming on multi-core clusters

Current Grants & Research Projects

Project information
HolderProject TitleSourceValue (£Ks)
Dr P BurnapBig Data analytics projectKTP and Admiral355.89
Dr L. Cipcigan, Professor N. Jenkins and Professor O.F. RanaEbbbs and flows of energy systems (EFES)EPSRC431.4
Professor O.F. Rana, Dr P. Burnap; Professor M. Levi and Professor M. Williams (Social Sciences); Professor K. Matthews (Business) and Dr V. Knight (Mathematics)Identifying and modelling victim, business, regulatory and malware behaviours in a changing cyberthreat landscapeEPSRC1270.7
Dr P. Burnap, Professor O.F. Rana, Dr L. CipciganSCADA Cyber Security LifecycleEADS UK227.67
Professor R Scully, Dr L Sloan, Dr M Williams, Dr P Burnap, Prof R JonesThe 2016 Welsh election study: A study of the 2016 election to the National Assembly for WalesESRC258.27

Recently Funded Research

The following projects have successfully completed:

  • Embedding COSMOS within public safety organisations
  • Industrial secondment
  • Inverse Problems for Magnetic Induction Tomography
  • Investigating the link between social media activity and reporting crime
  • Public perceptions of the UK food system: Public understanding and engagement, and the impact of crises and scares