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By Alison Donnellan 1 July 2021 3 min read

Senior Research Scientist Dr Sherry  Xu of CSIRO's Data61.

Meet Dr Xiwei (Sherry) Xu - a Senior Researcher within the Architecture and Analytics Platforms team at CSIRO's Data61, she was recently named as one of the most impactful software engineers in the global SE community by Bibliometric Assessment of Software Engineering Scholars Institute. We're speaking to Dr Xu about her upcoming projects, creating impactful work, and her 4,100 citations. 

Congratulations on being named as one of the most impactful scholars in the software engineering community! What does this achievement mean to you?

This achievement means my research in the past couple of years (2013-2020) has been recognised in the software engineering research community, which is my home research community. In particular, I am pleased that it is about the research impact which is what drives me every day and also a key part of CSIRO’s mission.

What did it take to achieve your ranking?

The ranking classifies scholars based on their research age (early stage, consolidator and experienced). I am ranked in the second group, 8–12 years of research by the end of 2016 — first peer-reviewed papers between 2005 and 2009. The impact of a scholar is measured by the average number of citations per year during the period from 2013 to 2020. My current citation count is 4,139.

Can you please tell us about some of your work?

In the past couple of years, my main research focus is software engineering and software architecture for blockchain applications. I have also been teaching a blockchain course at UNSW with my colleagues.

Based on the work our team has done on software architecture for blockchain applications, I published a book, Architecture for Blockchain Applications, with two colleagues in 2019. The blockchain course was designed based on this book, with both the University of NSW and Technology University of Berlin using it in their courses. Writing a book that helps disseminate innovative knowledge to the next generation and wider industry is a great experience.

I’ve been able to use my research in a number of industry projects via close collaboration with Data61’s Architecture and Analytics Platform team, working closely with another female researcher in my team, Dr Qinghua Lu. Qinghua and I have produced many research outputs together and used industry problems identified in the projects to drive our future research. Over the last several years, we have been working on supply chain use cases. We’ve published academic papers with good citations, and applied some of the methodologies to our projects, such as the building of a blockchain-based hydrogen certification system. It’s great to see this positive feedback cycle creating wider impact.

What are you currently working on?

Other than my continued work on software engineering for blockchain applications, I am exploring other research areas. My new research direction is software engineering for machine learning systems, and while it’s still early stages, I’m really excited about it.

Dr Sherry Xu participating in CSIRO's International Women's Day 2018 showcase.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in their software engineering career?

Learn, talk to and collaborate with scholars that are renowned in the field. They normally know what the next big thing is in near future. I have two publications with high citations in this field, and both of them are collaborative research with renowned scholars: A Taxonomy of Blockchain-based Systems for Architecture Design and The Blockchain as Software Connector. Making those connections and creating those collaborations are extremely helpful when you’re first starting out.

I also think timing and radical new thinking is very important for research to have high impact. It’s key to identify the next industry problem assuming the current problem is solved or an emerging technology is widely adopted. The first papers that propose radical new ideas, lay out the conceptual foundations and point the possible new directions, can have very high impact. However, it’s hard to have impact if it is incremental research on widely recognised problems.

Is there anything you'd like to highlight about this achievement?

First, my papers with high impact in the fields are team work with my colleagues in the research team and external scholars. The Untrusted business process monitoring and execution using blockchain paper published in the business process research community is a great example of this. I worked with several colleagues on it and it has high citations. Second, CSIRO’s Data61 has provided a platform for me to communicate and work with renowned scholars in the field, and I look forward to creating even more impact in the software engineering field.

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