Current Projects

The following are descriptions of things I and my students are currently working on. All fall within the research area of multiagent systems, and are closely related to the problem of coordinating a set of agents.

Trust between agents

One of the key attributes of software agents is their autonomy; one agent cannot, in general, tell another what to do. This means that the agent paradigm is widely applicable since it cabn capture cases where agents are competitive (in contrast with much work on distributed systems, for example), but it also brings a host of problems. One key issue is that if agensts are competing in some sense, when, why and how should agents trust one another?

We have been working on the problem of how one agent, which receives information from other agents that it trusts to some degree, can use that information in making decisions about what to do.


This work is currently funded by the Army Research Laboratory as part of the Network Science Collaborative Technology Alliance.

Selected Publications

Parsons, S., Sklar, E. and McBurney, P. Using argumentation to reason with and about trust, Proceedings of the 8th Workshop on Argumentation in Multiagent Systems, Taipei, Taiwan, 2011.

Parsons, S., Sklar, E. and McBurney, P. A simple logical approach to reasoning with and about trust, Proceedings of the AAAI Spring Symposium on Logical Formalizations of Commonsense Reasoning, Stanford, 2011.


Since much human communication is argumentation-based, that is based on the exchange of reasons for and against believing things, it seems that there are advantages to making communication between agents argumentation based as well. My work in this area has developed formal models of argumentation, and evaluating their usefullness for inter-agent communication.

A particular focus of our current work in this area is using argumentation to determine security policies for computer systems, an area where information is frequently conflicting and comes from sources that may not be entirely trustworthy.


This work was previously funded by the Army Research Laboratory as part of the International Technology Alliance, and is currently funded by NSF under the Trustworthy Computing program.

Selected Publications

Emele, C., Norman, T. J., Guerin, F. and Parsons, S. Argumentation strategies for plan resourcing, Proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, Taipei, Taiwan, 2011.

Tang, Y., Norman, T. and Parsons, S. A model for integrating dialogue and the execution of joint plans, Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, Budapest, Hungary, 2009.

Nielsen, S. and Parsons, S. An application of formal argumentation: Fusing Bayesian networks in multi-agent systems, Artificial Intelligence, 171(10-15), 754-775, 2007.

Parsons, S., Wooldridge, M., and Amgoud, L. Properties and complexity of formal inter-agent dialogues. Journal of Logic and Computation, 13(3), 347-376, 2003.

McBurney, P. and Parsons, S. Games that agents play: A formal framework for dialogues between autonomous agents. Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 11(3), 315-334, 2002.

Automated mechanism design

Auctions are an increasingly popular approach to ecommerce and general resource allocation.

One of the problems in deploying auctions is knowing what kind of auction to use for a particular task, a problem exacerbated by the fact that it seems that different tasks require different auctions. I have been looking at the use of evolutionary computing as a means of generating auction mechanisms. This approach it possible to customise auctions to specific tasks, and can make the choice of auction robust against exploitation by traders who use the auction.


This work was funded by the NSF under the MechDesign project of the IIS program.

Selected Publications

Parsons, S., Rodriguez-Aguilar, J. A. and Klein, M. Auctions and bidding: A guide for computer scientists, ACM Computing Surveys (to appear).

Niu, J., Cai, K., Parsons, S., McBurney, P., and Gerding, E. What the 2007 TAC Market Design Game tells us about effective auction mechanisms, Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, 21(2):172-203, 2010.

Phelps, S., McBurney, P. and Parsons, S. Evolutionary mechanism design: A review, Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, 21(2):237-264, 2010.

Phelps, S., McBurney, P. and Parsons, S. A novel method for strategy acquisition and its application to a double-auction market game, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part B: Cybernetics, 40(3):668-674, 2010.

Tuyls, K. and Parsons, S. What evolutionary game theory tells us about multiagent learning, Artificial Intelligence, 171(7), 406--416, 2007.

Multirobot Teams

For someone interested in issues to do with agent coordination, robots are the perfect platform for experiment. I have been involved in a number of projects in this area.

From 2002 until 2008 we had a team in the RoboCup Standard Platform League team, MetroBots which took part in a number of RoboCup competitions, and this led to work on new approaches to walking in legged robots.

More recently we have been looking explicitly at multirobot coordination in Urban Search and Rescue.


Our work on multirobot teams is funded by the NSF through two related projects; the project, an academic-year REU project, and the HRTeam project funded by the IIS program.

The work on new approaches to walking was funded by the Bipedal project, supported by the NSF through an MRI grant.

Selected Publications

Sklar. E., Ozgelen, A. T., Munoz, J. P., Gonzalez, J., Manashirov, M., Epstein, S. L. and Parsons, S. Designing the HRTeam framework: Lessons learned from a rough-'n-ready human/multi-robot team, Proceedings of the Workshop on Autonomous Robots and Multirobot Systems, Taipei, Taiwan, 2011.

Marcinkiewicz, M., Kaushik, R., Labutov, I., Parsons, S. and Raphan, T. Learning to stabilize the head of a walking quadrupedal robot using a bio-inspired artificial vestibular system, Proceedings of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2009.

Kaushik, R., Marcinkiewicz, M., Xiao, J., Parsons, S., and Raphan, T. Implementation of bio-inspired vestibular-ocular reflex in a quadrupedal robot, Proceedings of the International Conference on Robotics and Automation, Rome, 2007.