Sarah Wiseman

Location: Room 8.18
University College London
Malet Place Engineering Building (8th Floor)
Gower Street, London

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 7849 (x37849)

Email: s.wiseman@cs.ucl.ac.uk

Twitter: @oopsohno

Website: http://swiseman.co.uk/


Research Interests

I am interested in the way we transcribe numbers. It may seem like a specialist task, but you enter numbers in daily, whether it's dialling a new phone number, or copying over a bank account number. I'm specifically interested in numbers because of how important it is that people enter them correctly in the medical domain, where an error can mean a patient can get seriously injured, or may even die. I do a lot of work with, and am an honorary member of the CHI+MED project, which aims to make medical devices safer.

I am interested in the cognitive processes involved when doing this sort of task. I'm specifically looking at the comparison between the way we transcribe numbers and the way we transcribe words. I'm also interested in the errors we make when transcribing numbers; what they are and why we make them.


I did my BSc at the University of Edinburgh in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. I then completed my MSc at the University of York in Human Centred Interactive Technologies. I have been working on my PhD at UCL since Sept 2010.

My research aims at understanding more about the process of transcribing numbers. This page explains more about the projects involved and links to publications and other media. These are the current main themes in my work:

Digit Distribution

My work on digit distribution looks at the digits that are really being used in hospitals. Motivated by my error work, I wanted to know more about the frequency of each digit. Just as in English, the letters 'e' appears far more often than 'q', I wondered whether there would be similar patterns in digits.

I found there were very clear patterns in use, not every digit is equally likely to be used. 0 gets used three times more often than any other digit (and poor old 4 get left behind).

This work has been a really interesting project for me, it began as a summer holiday pet project and has gone from a Doctoal Symposium submission in 2011 (see the presentation video) to a work in progress at CHI in 2012 (see the CHI 2012 WIP paper and associated poster) to a full journal paper, which was shortlisted for the HFES prize.

During my recent Bright Club comedy stand-up routine, based upon my research I discussed some of my findings. The stand-up video can be found online.

Number Entry Error

Number entry is a highly pervasive task, whether it be entering our PIN at an ATM, or dialing a phone number to entering in financial data or medical information. The errors made in these contexts, particularly in the medical domain, can have very serious consequences.

I created a Number Entry Error Taxonomy after collecting together many examples of number entry errors. Previously, a corpus of number entry errors like this did not exist. The taxonomy groups the errors together according to their potential causes and consequences.

The work is on going, and the taxonomy at present needs to be honed further. This taxonomy can be used to consider the types of errors users may make when using an device; different errors may be associated with different tasks and different interfaces.

I presented this work at 2011 to BCS HCI. A poster overview of the work is also available.

Human Error

As well as being interested in the errors we make specifically when entering numbers, I also have a keen interest in collecting examples of and understand human error in general. To this end, I have been involved to a in UCLIC's errordiary project, which is an online database of everyday slips and mistakes. As with previous topics, I have done a Bright Club stand-up routine on the topic.

With this database, we are able to create fun and interactive teaching sessions for under graduate and Masters students about the topic of Human Error. For more information, including slides and exercise sheets, please go to the Teaching page of the errordiary website.

Jump to: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011
Number of items: 13.


Wiseman, SEM; Borghouts, JW; Grgic, D; Brumby, DP; Cox, AL; (2015) The Effect Of Interface Type On Visual Error Checking Behavior. In: (Proceedings) HFES 2015 International Annual Meeting. Green open access


Gould, SJJ; Wiseman, S; Furniss, D; Iacovides, I; Jennett, CI; Cox, AL; (2014) MOODs: Building massive open online diaries for researchers, teachers and contributors. In: Jones, M and Palanque, P and Schmidt, A and Grossman, T, (eds.) CHI EA '14: CHI '14 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems. (pp. 2281 - 2286). Association for Computing Machinery (ACM): New York, NY, United States. Green open access

Jennett, C; Furniss, D; Iacovides, I; Wiseman, S; Gould, SJJ; Cox, AL; (2014) Exploring Citizen Psych-Science and the Motivations of Errordiary Volunteers. Human Computation , 1 (2) 200 - 218. 10.15346/hc.v1i2.10. Green open access

Wiseman, SEM; (2014) Designing for Numerical Transcription Typing: Frequent Numbers Matter. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access


Gould, SJJ; Cox, AL; Brumby, DP; Wiseman, S; (2013) Assessing the Viability of Online Interruption Studies. In: Proceedings of the AAAI Conference on Human Computation & Crowdsourcing Works-in-Progress. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI): Palo Alto, California. Gold open access

Wiseman, S; Brumby, DP; Cox, A; Hennessy, O; (2013) Tailoring number entry interfaces to the task of programming medical infusion pumps. In: Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. (pp. 683 - 687). Green open access

Wiseman, S; Cox, AL; Brumby, DP; Gould, SJJ; O'Carroll, S; (2013) Using checksums to detect number entry error. In: (pp. pp. 2403-2406).

Wiseman, SEM; Cox, AL; Brumby, DP; (2013) Designing Devices With the Task in Mind: Which Numbers Are Really Used in Hospitals? Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society , 55 (1) 61 - 74. 10.1177/0018720812471988. Green open access

Wiseman, SEM; Hennessy, O; Cox, AL; Brumby, DP; (2013) The Language Of Numbers. Presented at: CHI 2012 Workshop: Grand Challenges In Text Entry, Paris, France.


Wiseman, S; Cox, AL; Brumby, DP; (2012) Designing for the task: what numbers are really used in hospitals? Presented at: UNSPECIFIED.

Wiseman, S; Gould, S; Furniss, DJ; Cox, A; (2012) Errordiary: Support for Teaching Human Error. Presented at: CHI 2012: the 30th ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: Workshop: A Contextualised Curriculum for HCI, Austin, Texas. Green open access

Wiseman, SEM; Cox, A; Brumby, DP; (2012) A case for Number Entry. Presented at: CHI 2012 Workshop: Designing and Evaluating Text Entry Methods: 30th ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Austin, Texas. Green open access


Wiseman, S; Cairns, P; Cox, A; (2011) A taxonomy of number entry error. In: (pp. pp. 187-196).

This list was generated on Sun May 1 10:34:08 2016 BST.

YouTube - Numberphile

I have been lucky enough to get to make a video for the very popular Numberphile channel. The video, on the design of the number layout on the phone keypad, can be seen below, or found here.



I have had the opportunity to perform some comedy sets at the fantastic Bright Club. These stand-up routines are all based around my research into numbers and error. My most recent set is shown below, to see all of them, please see my youtube channel

I've been lucky enough to get to talk about aspects of my research and comedy to various media outlets. Here's a collection of places where you can hear/see/read me chat about something!


10/4/12 - Word Of Mouth

The radio 4 programme Word Of Mouth were at the first Bright Club gig I performed at. The subsequent interview I did can be found in this episode. You can hear me speaking in a small group at 7:20 and then the intro of my set can be heard from 11:50. At 26:30 you can hear the end of my set and then an interview straight after it (I'm slightly high on adrenaline, I think you can tell).


21/8/12 - Mail Online

After reading a previous article on bank transfers going wrong, I wrote to the journalist to thank her for an interesting piece, and to give her more information about number entry error should she be interested. The article was so popular, that she wrote a follow up article, and contacted me for more information, which later appeared in the article.

11/6/13 - EPSRC Pioneer Magazine


I was given the opportunity to write about my Bright Club experience for the EPSRC's Pioneer magazine. The article (along with a snazzy photo) appeared in June 2013's issue, you can see an electronic copy of the magazine here. The article is on page 36.


19/6/13 - Watchdog Episode

Screenshot of Watchdog

As a result of my mention in the Mail Online article, Watchdog contacted me when they were doing a piece on bank transfer errors. In this clip, I talk about the fact that humans are inherently error prone, and that when it comes to reading numbers, it may be harder than reading words due to the rules involved in word creation, compared to those used in number creation.

OopsOhNo Blog

A Blog covering all my non-research work and additional thoughts on numbers and number entry.


My twitter account. I document the errors I make and get excited about trains.

YouTube channel

A collection of my stand-up videos.

Page last modified on 22 may 13 13:00 by Sarah E M Wiseman