Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Human-computer interaction

This research area covers the study of how humans interact with computers and how to design computer systems that are effective for people to use.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Human-computer interaction (HCI) is the study of how humans interact with computers and how to design computer systems that are effective for people to use. This research area includes:

The study of how humans interact with computers and how to design computer systems that are effective for people to use. This research area includes development and study of novel interface technologies, as well as consideration of the social and ethical aspects of computer system interaction and aspects of human-robot interaction. Cognitive science is also included where this informs the development or design of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) systems.

This strategy recognises the importance of HCI research to a number of nationally important areas, and the need to maintain capability and capacity in research and training to address these, while acknowledging the large, diverse nature of the current portfolio in this research area.

We aim to support a diverse portfolio of interdisciplinary and human-centred research which accelerates impact and addresses the challenges of deployments in the real world in a range of application domains. However, to maintain the area’s health and meet the key need of increasing translation of research outputs between different application domains, we wish to see a research area that includes an increased proportion of underpinning research. Researchers should therefore take opportunities individually and as part of larger, application-focused projects to prioritise fundamental research, ranging from models, methods and theories of (and for) interactive system design and development, to novel interaction technologies.

The research community is placed well to help meet many, varied societal challenges and aid development of a number of key technologies. We aim for a research portfolio that contributes high-quality work relevant to the Digital Economy theme and development of the Internet of Things, and addresses challenges posed by other increasingly important areas.

We expect the research community to have made substantial contributions to:

Collaborative healthcare, digital manufacturing, the creative industries and cybersecurity in an increasingly connected world are also areas where HCI research can have substantial impact. The community should consider challenges posed by these and address EPSRC’s Safe and Secure ICT cross-ICT priority. Many are also industry priorities. Researchers should continue to take opportunities to increase the uptake of research in industrial practice.

To maximise the impact of HCI research, and in line with EPSRC’s Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-ICT priority, researchers should actively co-create new technologies (for example, for interaction with complex or intelligent and autonomous systems) with colleagues in areas such as artificial intelligence technologies, graphics and visualisation, and electronics.

To address the challenges identified, researchers should also contribute to a portfolio which demonstrates clear interactions and collaborations with researchers in the arts and humanities and social sciences.

Why we're doing it

This large, diverse area is mainly characterised by high-quality research and world-leading groups. By most metrics, the UK is second only to the US. While less dominant in human-robot interaction, there are still pockets of UK excellence in that field.

This area is inherently highly interdisciplinary, demonstrating substantial links to the wider information and communication technologies (ICT) and EPSRC research areas as well as the social sciences and design. The current EPSRC portfolio, the predominant source of funding in the wider human-computer interaction (HCI) landscape, leans slightly more towards application-driven work and is dominated by targeted funding. There is an opportunity for an increased focus on underpinning theories and methods and new interaction technologies to support the discipline long term, and maximise industrial and academic impact.

The area demonstrates a good balance between large and small grants, with an increasing number of collaborations on large grants across the ICT portfolio. This area demonstrates good industrial support and contributes to many areas of societal and economic importance. It is key to improving cybersecurity, has strong relevance to the Digital Economy theme, digital manufacturing and the creative industries, and has potential for significant impact in healthcare technologies (such as underpinning the Healthcare Technologies theme’s transforming community health and care grand challenges).

Similarly, full realisation of intelligent technologies (including robotics and autonomous systems), the Internet of Things and human interaction with data requires development of trusted, acceptable, accessible systems, and increasingly systems to support interaction of multiple people with multiple computing systems – a challenge that HCI researchers can contribute to directly.

HCI research can contribute by developing new interaction technologies, theories and methodologies through collaboration and co-creation with other communities. Overlap is increasing with the Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing research area, but applications relevant to intelligent technologies and data science are underrepresented in the portfolio.

This wide applicability to different applications and the need to support co-development of key technologies result in the need for an HCI portfolio of this size and for enough researchers throughout the career path. There are a proportionate number of students in the area, demonstrating a good balance between centres for doctoral training, doctoral training partnerships and industrial collaborative awards in science and engineering. This supports demand from academia and industry for researchers with appropriate cross-disciplinary experience. Reasonable capacity exists throughout the pipeline, with applications submitted by those ranging from new academics to Association for Computing Machinery HCI fellows. Expertise is concentrated at a relatively small number of universities but a growing number are developing related activities.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for human-computer interaction.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 21 December 2022

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