Human communication in ICT

The study of how humans interact with one another via spoken and written language, gesture, posture and touch, for example. This research area explores how an understanding of such interactions can inform and improve the design and development of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), including those designed to enhance social interactions. Research typically draws on methodologies from psychology, sociology, linguistics and related social sciences.

To maintain the discipline's long-term health, this area should be balanced between underpinning and more application-driven work. Researchers should engage with challenges associated with the development of novel interaction technologies which underpin key areas such as social inclusion and health and social care. In particular, by the end of the Delivery Plan, the community should have made substantial contributions to the development of collaborative, socially aware and socially acceptable intelligent technologies, as described in EPSRC's Future Intelligent Technologies cross-ICT priority.

To maximise the impact of research and address the identified priorities, research in this area must involve collaboration both within and outside ICT research. Researchers should address EPSRC's Cross-Disciplinarity and Co-Creation cross-ICT priority and continue to develop and strengthen links to research throughout the ICT and the wider EPSRC portfolios.

This area's close affiliation with psychology and the social sciences is also beneficial and increasingly important in many domains, including: trust, identity, privacy and security; interaction design; and robotics. To address the identified challenges, researchers should demonstrate clear interactions and collaborations with researchers across this interface.


In this relatively small research area, expertise is often co-located with larger research programmes - primarily in the area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) but also in areas such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Speech Technology. (Evidence source 1) Many outcomes from this collaborative research are world-class. (Evidence source 1,2)

Our current portfolio in this area has a good balance between different project sizes but is increasingly reliant on targeted, challenge-driven funding, although this reliance is notably less than for the larger related area of HCI. (Evidence source 1)

In line with its relative size, the list of UK universities with expertise and funding in this area is relatively small but is considered sufficient to meet demands. (Evidence source 1,3) A limited number of researchers identify as core to this area, but many carry out research in the area as part of collaborative projects. In line with this, there is also proportionate student provision to continue to train people with the necessary cross-disciplinary experience, with a good balance between Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) and Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) students. (Evidence source 1,3)

This research area supports development of effective interaction technologies to increase inclusion in an increasingly connected world. (Evidence source 4) It is of substantial relevance to the remit of the Digital Economy Theme and has some relevance to issues of cybersecurity and assistive technologies. (Evidence source 3,5) There are also increasing opportunities for the area to contribute to the human aspects of Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) and development of collaborative and socially aware intelligent technologies. (Evidence source 3,4) Research in this domain is, however, relatively under-represented in the current EPSRC-funded portfolio.

Collaboration is at the heart of the research area and, in many ways, is essential to maximising the impact achieved as the primary pathway. Collaborative links with the social sciences, including psychology, HCI and in the area of speech, are well-established and important to the development of advanced interaction technologies. (Evidence source 1,3,6) There are opportunities to develop stronger collaborations with the wider ICT community to enable development of socially aware computing technologies. (Evidence source 3)

This area will contribute to the Healthy and Connected Nation Outcomes, with specific relevance to the following Ambitions:

C3: Deliver intelligent technologies and systems

Research into Human Communication in ICT is expected to contribute an essential understanding of human interaction that enables development of collaborative, socially aware intelligent systems.

C5: Design for an inclusive, innovative and confident digital society

Research in this area can contribute to development of inclusive technologies that adapt to different human communication abilities and preferences.

H1: Transform community health and care

Through collaborations with other areas, research into Human Communication in ICT can contribute to development of socially inclusive assistive technologies.

  1. EPSRC application and student data and bibliometric data analysis.
  2. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, The UOA 11 Report, (2015).
  3. Engagement: discussions with the ICT Strategic Advisory Team, relevant REF panellists, the UK Computing Research Committee (UKCRC) Executive Committee, ICT Theme workshops (including the Human-Like Computing Workshop) and leaders in the research field.
  4. CITIA, CITIA Roadmap for Conversational Interaction Technologies: Five Scenarios for Research and Innovation, (2015).
  5. EPSRC, EPSRC Strategy and Cyber Security: Evidence Gathered and Future Plans, (2016).
  6. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), International Benchmarking Review of UK Psychology, (2011).

Other source:

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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EPSRC support by research area in Human communication in ICT (GoW)
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Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Jessica Bonham
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444553