Have you noticed that Dr. Bias has been gone since June 1? (If you have not noticed, please don't tell him.) Randolph has been off on a Faculty Research Assignment at the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC). With his time there about up, we asked him to share with us how his experience has been.
Sam Burns: So, what have you been doing in Pensacola, mostly just fishing and sunbathing?
Randolph Bias: Yep, that's all.
SB: Well, thank you for your time, then.
RB: There's been some of that, but not near enough. It's been a collection of things - getting some old research written up, including an article that just appeared in interactions. Plus we've recently submitted some work I did with colleagues at North Carolina State and UColorado for publication, and we've just heard that our manuscript on Hans Huang's dissertation work on fMRI data applied to information studies questions has been accepted by the Journal of the Association of Information Science & Technology. But more exciting is the new work. I have come up with a new usability evaluation method involving Concept Mapping. And since these folks at IHMC are experts at Concept Mapping (they just hosted their fifth international meeting on the topic), there are people here helping me pioneer this method. We're pursuing some funding from the Naval Research Laboratory to develop and test the method.
Another thread is some cool image tagging work done by other IHMCers, work that, stop me if you've heard this before, would benefit from some usability support. We're in the process of writing an IMLS grant proposal for that.
SB: How'd you score this Florida gig?
RB: It's been a patchwork quilt. Dean Dillon awarded me a Faculty Research Assignment for Fall, 2013, for which I'm very grateful. At the same time the director of the IHMC, Dr. Ken Ford, welcomed me as a visiting research scientist, and gave me some summer support. And Dr. Robert Peterson, newly named director of UT's IC2 Institute, awarded me some research funds. Add in Cheryl Bias's willingness to put her private counseling practice on hold, and, well, as you know, Sam, it takes a village.
SB: So I've heard. So, who are these IHMC folks? Are they associated with the University of West Florida?
RB: Used to be, but now they are an independent, not-for-profit research institute of the Florida University System. Lots of smart people doing lots of cool research, mostly funded by DARPA, the US military, and other governmental agencies. They do a lot of robotics work, and recently won a DARPA Robotics Challenge competition, besting teams from MIT, CalTech, Lockheed Martin, NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, plus teams from seven other countries. The IHMC director, Ford, is a force of nature: awardee of NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, former member of the National Science Board, member of the Air Force Science Advisory Board, sews all his own clothes. OK, I made that last bit up. Smart people here, and I'm glad to be learning from them.
SB: I've heard some talk that you won't be coming back. Say it ain't so.
RB: I heard the same thing. I think it was at dubya dubya dubya dot thingsthatarewrong dot com. That's just goofy. First off, a condition of the FRA is that one must return or repay that largesse. But more than that, I have tenure at one university, and am eager to return to continue teaching the best students in the world. Add the fact that our two sons are in Texas. And you, Sam. So, that's a nonstarter.
SB: OK, good. So, what can we expect when you get back?
RB: Diane Bailey and I have been working on freshening up our Understanding Research class. You won't believe where the class is going to meet! I am looking forward to indoctrinating, uh, teaching 20 new students in my Usability class. I understand that Dr. Gwizdka has added capabilities to our IX Lab, for which I am grateful. My doctoral students Ji Hyun Park and Yeolib Kim are getting close to finishing!! There are about six software development companies to which I am trying to sell applied research and capstone opportunities. And let's not forget about SouthBy - my Christmas list is all "black t-shirts and jeans."
SB: So it sounds like we're about through here?
RB: You da man, Sam. See you in January. Until then, tell everyone at the iSchool to keep rowing in the same direction. Because as you know . . .
SB: It takes a village?
RB: You got it.