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Professor Dylan M Jones OBE DSc

1948-2022

Professor Dylan Jones worked at Cardiff University for almost 50 years. At that time the School of Psychology had fewer than 10 staff members, 40 Undergraduate students, and a handful of PhD students.

Dylan qualified from University of Wales Institute of Science & Technology, a precursor to the modern Cardiff University to which he returned in 1974 after two years spent working with Donald Broadbent at the University of Oxford, and where he spent the remainder of his career.

From Broadbent, Dylan acquired a life-long interest in the topic of auditory attention. In particular, Dylan became well-known for his studies of distraction as investigated using the techniques of experimental psychology, for which he was awarded an honorary DSc from Cardiff University, and from which standpoint he challenged the dominance of the working memory model. A fierce but thoughtful critic of ideas he felt were misguided, Dylan argued, together with the late Prof Bill Macken, that there was an overemphasis on memory for its own sake in contemporary theorising and that human behaviour might be better judged as a response to objects in the external environment or to the situation as a whole. For his many postgraduate students, recipients of apparently inexhaustible encouragement and support, their experience of Dylan’s empirical approach to experimental psychology was typified by the question, “What does this situation look like to the experimental participant?” and the inevitable “So what is the next experiment?”. A certain quirky humour was always evident as well in the titles of many of Dylan’s papers and the curiously named “O-OER” model of short-term memory.

As with Broadbent his work was always informed by applied concerns and “real world” problems, and in tandem with all of this, Dylan also maintained an interest in technology and the human factors governing its use and usability. Dylan worked on (and often led) multiple projects on topics such as vigilance, stress, workload measurement, mood measurement, circadian variation, interface design for speech recognition, situation awareness, and auditory alarm design. He collaborated on multiple applied projects with such sponsors as QinetiQ, GDUK, Digital Equipment Corporation, Eurocontrol, DRA, DERA, Dstl, and MoD. He was a member of the Human Sciences Committee of the DSA Council, and bodies related to the APRC.

Dylan was awarded his OBE in 2001 for outstanding research contribution to Defence Sciences and was one of very few academics to receive a Doctor of Science (DSc) as a ‘mid-career’ researcher.

In 2003, he was appointed Head of the School of Psychology. Under his expert leadership the School of Psychology would achieve 2nd position in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework – successfully splitting Oxford and Cambridge. The School of Psychology would continue to grow in both reputation and size, today welcoming more than 350 undergraduate and postgraduate students each year.

In 2013, Dylan became the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor for the College of Biomedical & Life Sciences. Once again, his leadership and vision would help to galvanise the College and bring about positive change and development.

He would later return to the School of Psychology as a Senior Research Professor to continue his world-leading research. Dylan secured more than £30m of funding across more than 50 grants, published over 350 journal articles (and many other types of outputs), and supervised almost 50 PhD students, many of whom have had incredibly successful academic, industry and Government careers.

Professor Jones was instrumental in the creation of the Human Factors Excellence Research Group, quickly establishing Cardiff University as a leader for Human Factors research in the UK. Dylan was also Co-Director of the Cardiff University Centre for AI, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems.

Tributes to Professor Dylan Jones

Dylan had such a positive impact on many thousands of people and will be greatly missed. Tributes have been pouring in from all over the world. He was an outstanding academic and an inspiration to those he worked with.

Professor David Morrison (Murdoch University): ‘Dylan was very proudly Welsh and I am sure Wales is pretty bloody proud of him as I know I am to count him amongst my most loyal and best of friends.’

Dr Robyn Boyle (Macquarie University, Australia): ‘Dylan’s insistence that socialising and winding-down together as a group was (almost) as important as the research itself, was a manifestation of his immense capacity to enjoy life and inspire in others a joy of living.’

Professor Jessica Ljungberg (LTU, Sweden): ‘My heart is broken – such a wonderful and brilliant man. Never stopped dancing, and paid extra attention to the pictures of the glimpse in his eyes – often changing from being “innocent” to quirky.’

Professors Minoru Asada (Osaka University) and Tatsu Inatani (Kyoto University): ‘Dylan was always warm and a broad-minded person. He was always very generous, kind, and super inspiring for us.’

Professor Murray Mayberry (University of Western Australia): ‘For me, Dylan was an icon of UK short-term/working memory research, an insightful and inspirational collaborator, extremely generous host on visits to Cardiff, and irrepressible entertainer and comic, especially when working in tandem with his best mate Bill’

Professor Fabrice Parmentier (University of the Balearic Islands): ‘Many times, visitors to my office seeing his picture ask me if he is my dad (we had, after all, the same hair style). “My academic dad” I always proudly reply. For Dylan was that, to me and to many others. He will always be.’

Professor Phil Beaman (University of Reading): ‘One of my cherished memories of my post-PhD period under Dylan’s supervision is being told by another academic at a job-interview that I had “a whiff of Cardiff and Dylan Jones’ about me”. A compliment indeed.

Professor Colin Riordan (Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University): ‘Dylan was a wonderful colleague and a great support for me in my early years at Cardiff, as well as being an erudite and highly amusing friend. Some of you will know him as an outstanding researcher, and indeed he retained his post part-time as an active researcher after giving up his various offices. I know I speak on behalf of all past and present members of University Executive Board when I say that our hearts go out to Dylan’s family, friends and colleagues, and we will miss him very much indeed.’

Carolyn Donoghue and Richard Palmer (Cardiff University): ‘Dylan and Mags introduced us to opera and, although I remain unconvinced, I will concede to it being an education! I also have Dylan to blame for my increasingly elevated wine standards, a newfound taste for champagne, and the resultant impact on my finances.

Professor Phillip Morgan (Cardiff University): ‘Dylan, you were and always will be a legend to me and many, my academic dad (as well as others) and one of my very best friends. A legend has been lost, will be missed by so many but never ever forgotten.’