Sue Black (computer scientist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sue Black

Dr Sue Black visiting Brazil.jpg
Sue Black in 2012
Susan Elizabeth Black

1962 (age 60–61)
Fareham, Hampshire, England
Alma materLondon South Bank University (PhD)
Known forSaving Bletchley Park
AwardsJohn Ivinson Award (2009)
Scientific career
ThesisComputation of Ripple Effect Measures for Software (2001)
Doctoral advisorRobin Whitty[2]

Susan Elizabeth Black OBE FRSA (born 1962) is a British computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur.[3][4][1] She is known for saving Bletchley Park, (World War II codebreaking) with her Saving Bletchley Park campaign.[5][6] Since 2018, she has been Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University. She was previously based at the University of Westminster and University College London.

Early life and education[edit]

Sue Black was born in 1962 in Fareham, Hampshire.[7] She left school and home at 16, the earliest legal age. She married at 20 and soon had three children.[8]

After her husband forced Black and her children out, she sought safety at a local women's refuge. She began a maths access course at night school that led to enrolling in undergraduate degree.[9] Black graduated with a bachelor's degree in computing from London South Bank University[10] in 1993, and obtained her PhD in software engineering[11] in 2001[12][13] for research on the ripple effect supervised by Robin Whitty[2][14]

Career and research[edit]

Black was previously Head of the Department of Information and Software Systems at the University of Westminster, and senior research associate at University College London (UCL).[15] Since 2018, she has been Professor of Computer Science and Technology Evangelist at Durham University,[16][17] and an honorary professor at UCL.[18]

She was the founding chair of the British Computer Society (BCS) Specialist Group BCSWomen,[19] serving from 2001 until 2008. She is an advocate of women in computing.[20]


Black ran a successful campaign over several years to secure funding for the restoration of Bletchley Park, the UK World War II centre for decrypting enemy messages.[5][21] In 2003 she started raising awareness of the site by creating a blog,[22] after visiting the site and noting the appalling condition of the buildings, seeing the Bombe machine being rebuilt, and hearing that over 10,000 people had worked there during the war. The photograph of one of the huts with a blue tarpaulin protecting the deteriorating structure helped galvanise interest and activism among concerned computer scientists. The initial outreach was followed up with an active Twitter presence that attracted even more followers and interested parties. Bletchley Park staff also engaged with other Web 2.0 (i.e. user-generated) technologies such as Facebook and Twitter.[23][24]

At the end of 2015, Black published a book about the process, Saving Bletchley Park,[5] initially funded via Unbound,[25] that became the fastest crowdfunded book of all time.[26]

everywoman says Black "embodies the traits of a modern leader", particularly in regard to social media use.[27] The BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones spotted early on that Black was making sophisticated use of Twitter (and other platforms) in her campaigning.[28][29]

Black set up Techmums, reaching out to mothers who wanted to understand what their children were up to online. Techmums offers free training in digital security, social media, the programming language Python, and so on, with the aim of increasing the women's confidence, breaking down the digital divide, and helping them escape poverty. The pilot programme was held at Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School in London Borough of Tower Hamlets.[9] Techmums describes itself as "an e-skills accredited program of short, hands-on workshops" with a supportive online community.[30]

Black has appeared on BBC television, radio and in press articles.[21][31][32][33] She was interviewed by Jim Al-Khalili for The Life Scientific first broadcast in 2019[34] and was a guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs.[35]


In March 2019 the Women's Equality Party announced that Black would be their candidate in the 2020 election for Mayor of London.[36] In February 2020, it was announced that Black was withdrawing as the party's candidate for health reasons, and was being replaced by Mandu Reid.[37]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2009 Black won the first John Ivinson Award[38] from the British Computer Society at the Royal Society in London. In 2011 Black won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award.[39] In 2012 she was listed as one of Datamation's 10 Women in Tech Who Give Back.[40]

Black was also one of the 30 women identified in the British Computer Society's Women in IT Campaign in 2014, who were then featured in the e-book "Women in IT: Inspiring the next generation" produced by the BCS.[41]

In 2015 Black was identified as the 7th[42] Most Influential Women in UK IT 2015, by Computer Weekly.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to technology.[43][44][45]

Black was awarded the Social Impact Abie Award from the in 2017.[46][47]


  1. ^ a b Sue Black publications indexed by Google Scholar Edit this at Wikidata
  2. ^ a b Sue Black at the Mathematics Genealogy Project Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ "Dr Sue Black official webpage".
  4. ^ Sue Black at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  5. ^ a b c "Saving Bletchley Park". Archived from the original on 9 November 2008.
  6. ^ Interview with Sue Black by Robert Llewellyn about Bletchley Park on YouTube
  7. ^ "Inspiring Woman: Dr Sue Black, OBE". 16 February 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2017.
  8. ^ Black, Sue (16 December 2014). "Bio + Contact". blackse. Retrieved 21 May 2016. Dr Sue Black left home and school at 16, married at 20 and had 3 children by the age of 23. A single parent at 25 she went to university, gained a degree in computing then a PhD in software engineering.
  9. ^ a b Fleming, Amy (11 November 2013). "#techmums: why can't geeks be mothers too?". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2016.
  10. ^ "LSBU alumna Sue Black becomes an OBE in New Year Honours List 2016". UK: London South Bank University. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  11. ^ Black, Susan Elizabeth (2001). Computation of Ripple Effect Measures for Software. (PhD thesis). London Southbank University. OCLC 1063678609. EThOS
  12. ^ Sue Black ORCID 0000-0002-9315-9517
  13. ^ "Publications by Dr Sue Black". Archived from the original on 11 April 2009.
  14. ^ Black, Sue (2001). "Computing ripple effect for software maintena.nce". Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution: Research and Practice. 13 (4): 263–279. doi:10.1002/smr.233. ISSN 1532-060X.
  15. ^ "Sue Black profile". UK: University College London. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Professor Sue Black". Department of Computer Science. Durham University. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  17. ^ "Sue Black to join vibrant Computer Science Department". Durham University. 22 October 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  18. ^ "Sue Black". Department of Computer Science. University College London. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  19. ^ Dr Sue Black|Committee|BCSWomen, British Computer Society.
  20. ^ Sue Black profile Archived 1 December 2017 at the Wayback Machine,Skirts and Ladders Archived 8 August 2018 at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ a b Cellan-Jones, Rory, Bletchley Park's social media war, BBC News, 18 March 2009.
  22. ^ Brain, Jon, Neglect of Bletchley condemned, BBC News, 24 July 2008.
  23. ^ Thomson, Rebecca (19 March 2009). "Bletchley Park wins crucial funding using Facebook and Twitter". Computer Weekly.
  24. ^ Black, Sue; Bowen, Jonathan P.; Griffin, Kelsey (13–17 April 2010). Bearman, David; Trant, Jennifer (eds.). "Can Twitter Save Bletchley Park?". Museums and the Web 2010. Denver, United States: Archives & Museum Informatics.
  25. ^ Saving Bletchley Park. Unbound. ISBN 9781908717924. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  26. ^ "Celebrating the incredible codebreakers of Bletchley Park – Dr. Sue Black OBE, Computer Scientist, Writer and Speaker – Womanthology". Womanthology. Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  27. ^ "#techmums Founder Dr Sue Black's rules for elevating your personal social media presence". Everywoman. Archived from the original on 11 June 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2016. Dr Sue Black, Founder of Savvify #techmums – empowering mums to get excited about technology – and winner of the Inspiration of the Year award at the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards in March 2014, embodies the traits of the modern leader – engaged with her audience, transparent, open and authentic
  28. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (18 March 2009). "Bletchley Park's social media war". A blog about technology from BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 21 May 2016. A vital component in this campaign has been what you might call the propaganda war – although one which has employed the most modern of weapons. Dr Black has assembled a significant crowd of supporters for Bletchley Park – geeks, history buffs, technologically literate celebrities – using all the modern social media tools.
  29. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (30 December 2015). "OBE for Bletchley campaigner Sue Black". BBC News Technology. BBC. Retrieved 21 May 2016. Others had been battling for years to make the same case without much success, but in 2008 social media was just beginning to play an important role in campaigning, and Dr Black made full use of it.
  30. ^ "About". Retrieved 21 May 2016. What is #techmums? #techmums is an e-skills accredited program of short, hands-on workshops that introduce mums to online security, social media savviness, essential computing skills, app and web design. In addition there is opportunity for mums to be introduced to simple Python programming to gain understanding of the computer skills their children may learn at school. #techmums programs are delivered via schools either directly by a #techmums trainer or by the school themselves. All mums enrolled onto the program are further supported by a dedicated #techmums online community.
  31. ^ "Dr Sue Black: Press". Archived from the original on 11 April 2009.
  32. ^ Smyth, Chris (24 July 2008). "Scientists send clear message: save Bletchley Park". The Times.
  33. ^ Arthur, Charles (29 September 2009). "Bletchley Park's codebreakers get glimpse of lottery funding". The Guardian.
  34. ^ "Sue Black on women in tech".
  35. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Desert Island Discs, Dr Sue Black". BBC. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Women's Equality Party announces Interim Leader and London Mayoral Candidate". Women's Equality Party. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  37. ^ Proctor, Kate (16 February 2020). "Women's Equality party candidate pulls out of London mayoral race". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2020.
  38. ^ "First BCS John Ivinson Award Goes to Dr Sue Black". British Computer Society. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  39. ^ Black, Sue (23 August 2011). "PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award Winner – If I can do it, so can you…". PepsiCo WIN. Archived from the original on 5 June 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  40. ^ Vartabedian, Jessica (6 August 2012). "10 Women in Tech Who Give Back". Datamation. Retrieved 7 January 2016.
  41. ^ Women in IT: Inspiring the next generation (PDF). British Computer Society. 1 October 2014. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-78017-287-3. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  42. ^ "The 50 most influential women in UK IT 2015". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  43. ^ "No. 61450". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 2015. p. N11.
  44. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (30 December 2015). "OBE for Bletchley campaigner Sue Black". BBC. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  45. ^ "New Year's Honours 2016: CSV". New Year's Honours 2016. Government of the United Kingdom. 30 December 2015. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  46. ^ "Dr. Sue Black OBE -". 1 August 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  47. ^ "ABIE Awards -". Retrieved 14 November 2017.