Ed Robertson


School of Informatics Distinguished Service Award (2009)
Indiana University Bloomington
School of Informatics
Fulbright Award (1987)
Fulbright Award
Location: Kenya
Indiana University Bloomington


Ed Robertson, a professor of computer science and informatics, joined the IU computer science department in 1978 and served as department chair from 1982 to 1988. He served as associate dean of informatics from the inception of the school in 2001 to 2006. Previously, he held academic appointments at the University of Ghana, the University of Waterloo, and the Pennsylvania State University. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from the California Institute of Technology (1966) and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Wisconsin (1968, 1970). During 1987-88 he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Nairobi. He served as co-executive director of the Indiana Center for Database Systems from 1990 to 1992.

His research areas include database systems theory and practice, enterprise architectures, information modeling, software engineering, and systems modeling and engineering. Robertson and his colleagues address the continuing problem of mismatch between information, as images of the real world, and data, as database representations of these images. The traditional solution to this mismatch has been the use of professionals knowledgeable about both environments to span over the mismatch. However, the growth of end-user computing, by eliminating the intervening professionals, makes the mismatch problem much more severe. Therefore Robertson and his colleagues are conceptualizing, designing, and implementing database tools able to represent and to present the real world more meaningfully. But database technology will not by itself solve the mismatch problem, for the data models of the real world will continue to evolve in scope and complexity. Therefore they also continue to explore "significant abstractions" which facilitate the development and representation of data models and the querying and manipulation capabilities within the models. Robertson's career accomplishments include applying approximate dependency concepts to yield new approaches to query optimization, developing simple, clean extensions to SQL and relational algebra which allow for querying metadata directly along with the data, a general model of magnification based on a magnification field placed on top of an image, achieving "data-driven magnification", a general architecture for database visualization which clearly modularizes the technical and user interface aspects, with particular techniques for dealing with non-numeric data, and a formal model for enterprise architecture frameworks; these models are being used in the development of international enterprise architecture frameworks.

Over the years, Robertson has served as an inspiration to countless computer science students. His awards include IU's Teaching Excellence Award in 1999, 2000 and 2007, and the IU Trustee Teaching Award for Faculty in 2004. He was named a Fulbright Scholar in 1987 and during that year worked at the Institute of Computer Science in Nairobi, Kenya. He maintains an extensive list of publications, grant awards and professional activities within the world of informatics.