Sue Black (computer scientist)

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This article is about the computer scientist. She is not to be confused with Sue Black (forensic anthropologist).
For other people named Sue Black, see Sue Black (disambiguation).
Sue Black
Dr Sue Black visiting Brazil.jpg
Sue Black in Brazil.
Born Susan Elizabeth Black
United Kingdom
Nationality English
Alma mater South Bank University
Occupation Computer Scientist
Employer University College London
  • John Ivinson Award (2009)
  • PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award (2011)
  • Order of the British Empire (2016)

Susan Elizabeth Black OBE FBCS FRSA (born 1962) is a British computer scientist, academic and social entrepreneur. She has been instrumental in saving Bletchley Park, the World War II codebreaking site.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Black left school and home at the earliest legal age, 16. She married at 20 and soon had three children.[2] By 25, she was a single mother living in a women's refuge. She took a maths access course at night school that led to enrolling in undergraduate degree.[3] Black graduated with a computing degree from London's South Bank University[4] in 1993 and earned her PhD in Engineering there in 2001.[5][6]

The ripple effect is a term within the field of software metrics used with respect to a complexity measure.[7]


Black is a Senior Research Associate at University College London.[8] She was previously Head of the Department of Information and Software Systems at the University of Westminster.

Black was the founding chair of the BCS Specialist Group BCSWomen[9] and remained in that position till 2008.

She is an advocate of women in computing.[10]


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.[1][11] In 2003, she started raising awareness of the site by creating a blog,[12] 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 galvanize 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.[13][14]

At the end of 2015, Black published a book about the process, Saving Bletchley Park, initially funded via Unbound,[15] that became the fastest crowdfunded book of all time.[16]

Every woman says Black "embodies the traits of a modern leader", particularly in regard to social media use.[17] The BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones spotted early on that Black was making sophisticated use of Twitter (and other platforms) in her campaigning.[18][19]

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.[3] Techmums describes itself as "an e-skills accredited program of short, hands-on workshops" with a supportive online community.[20]

Dr Black has appeared on BBC television, radio and in press articles.[11][21][22][23]


In 2009, Black won the first John Ivinson Award[24] from the British Computer Society at the Royal Society in London. In 2011, Black won the PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award.[25] In 2012, she was listed as one of Datamation's 10 Women in Tech Who Give Back.[26]

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.[27]

In 2015, Black was identified as the 7th[28] 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.[29][30][31]


  1. ^ a b Saving Bletchley Park.
  2. ^ Black, Sue. "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. 
  3. ^ a b Fleming, Amy (11 November 2013). "#techmums: why can't geeks be mothers too?". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ Publications by Dr Sue Black.
  6. ^ Susan Elizabeth Black at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  7. ^ Black, Sue, Computing ripple effect for software maintenance, Journal of Software Maintenance and Evolution: Research and Practice, vol 13, Issue 4, pp 263–279, 2001. doi:10.1002/smr.233
  8. ^ "Sue Black profile". UK: University College London. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Dr Sue Black|Committee|BCSWomen, British Computer Society.
  10. ^ Sue Black profile,Skirts and Ladders.
  11. ^ a b Cellan-Jones, Rory, Bletchley Park's social media war, BBC News, 18 March 2009.
  12. ^ Brain, Jon, Neglect of Bletchley condemned, BBC News, 24 July 2008.
  13. ^ Thomson, Rebecca (19 March 2009). "Bletchley Park wins crucial funding using Facebook and Twitter". Computer Weekly. 
  14. ^ Sue Black, Jonathan P. Bowen, and Kelsey Griffin (13–17 April 2010). David Bearman and Jennifer Trant, ed. "Can Twitter Save Bletchley Park?". Museums and the Web 2010. Denver, United States: Archives & Museum Informatics. 
  15. ^ "Saving Bletchley Park". Unbound. Retrieved 2015-12-30. 
  16. ^ "Celebrating the incredible codebreakers of Bletchley Park - Dr. Sue Black OBE, Computer Scientist, Writer and Speaker - Womanthology". Womanthology. Retrieved 2016-04-07. 
  17. ^ "#techmums Founder Dr Sue Black's rules for elevating your personal social media presence". Everywoman. 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 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (30 Dec 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. 
  20. ^ "About". Techmums. 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. 
  21. ^ "Dr Sue Black: Press". 
  22. ^ Smyth, Chris (24 July 2008). "Scientists send clear message: save Bletchley Park". The Times. 
  23. ^ Arthur, Charles, (29 September 2009). "Bletchley Park's codebreakers get glimpse of lottery funding". The Guardian. 
  24. ^ "First BCS John Ivinson Award Goes to Dr Sue Black". British Computer Society. Retrieved July 16, 2014. 
  25. ^ PepsiCo WIN (2012). "PepsiCo Women's Inspiration Award Winner – If I can do it, so can you…". Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  26. ^ Vartabedian, Jessica (6 August 2012). "10 Women in Tech Who Give Back". Datamation. Retrieved 7 January 2016. 
  27. ^ Women in IT: Inspiring the next generation (PDF). British Computer Society. 1 Oct 2014. p. 57. ISBN 978-1-78017-287-3. Retrieved 14 Oct 2014. 
  28. ^ "The 50 most influential women in UK IT 2015". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 11 July 2015. 
  29. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61450. p. N11. 30 December 2015.
  30. ^ Cellan-Jones, Rory (30 December 2015). "OBE for Bletchley campaigner Sue Black". BBC Online. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  31. ^ "New Year's Honours 2016: CSV". New Year's Honours 2016. HM Government. 2015-12-30. Retrieved 2015-12-30. 

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