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Spreadsheet Fix Could Save Billions

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Martin Erwig, left, and Margaret Burnett aim to improve software through a national OSU-led consortium. Matt Johnen, right, is CEO of i5Logic, which has licensed the results of their work, including spreadsheet repair software developed by Erwig and Robin Abraham.

Spreadsheets are one of the most common computerized business programs in the world, used for everything from payrolls to tax preparation. But guess what? They almost always have errors in them, mistakes that can cost a lot of money.

"Up to 90 percent of spreadsheets have fairly serious errors," says Martin Erwig, an OSU associate professor of computer science. "One auditor has said he never inspected a single spreadsheet during his entire career that was totally accurate."

That problem, however, may soon be greatly reduced. Erwig and Ph.D. student Robin Abraham have developed a new "end user" software repair system that identifies potential mistakes and suggests corrections. In about 80 percent of the cases, the needed change is among the top five suggestions produced by the system. An Oregon spinoff company, i5Logic, has licensed software, including a sys-tem called "GoalDebug," developed by the OSU researchers and their collaborators.

The work is part of the National Science Foundation-funded EUSES Consortium (End Users Shaping Effective Software) whose project director is OSU Professor Margaret Burnett in the College of Engineering.

Margaret Burnett’s Web site
Martin Erwig’s Web site
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
OSU Foundation