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A mugshot at the Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna

Joshua Knowles

Professor of Natural Computation

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I develop and analyse algorithms for optimization and learning, focusing partly on those that mimic or simulate natural systems. Some of the algorithms I've worked on are: PAES (cited by 2,000+), ParEGO (cited by 400+), MOCK (cited by 400+), and a duality framework, called "multiobjectivization" (cited by 300+). I have been doing this in the Natural Computation Group at Birmingham since June 2015, alongside working with many external collaborators. This follows on from 11 years at the University of Manchester (spent, variously, in the School of Chemistry, the MIB, and the School of Computer Science). Previously to that, I was a Marie Curie Fellow in the IRIDIA artificial intelligence lab in Brussels, and, before that, a PhD student at the University of Reading, UK. I hold an honorary post at Manchester in the Decision Sciences group of the Alliance Manchester Business School. I do all the usual academic stuff: think; research; teach; supervise student projects and PhDs; employ postdocs; apply for grants; go to, and run, conferences and seminars; informally mentor; edit journals and conference proceedings; review papers; and so on. "If you want something done, give it to a busy man."

Research Interests

Research key terms: algorithms, complexity analysis, evolutionary computation, heuristics, multiobjective optimization, combinatorial optimization, Bayesian optimization, multiobjective machine learning, data science, ensemble methods, swarm intelligence, sequential design of experiments, search-based software engineering, unsupervised learning, cluster analysis, active learning, inverse problems, reinforcement learning, decision analysis and support, operations research, surrogate modeling, artificial life, complex networks, complex systems, benchmarking and performance analysis, statistics, game theory, psychology, education, computing at schools, philosophy of science, and cross-disciplinary work in the bio-sciences (especially Evolutionary Biology), astrophysics, telecommunications, analytical chemistry, and more.

For more specific information about what my group, collaborators and I get up to (and get up for), please see my research pages.

Some personal research highlights in the view of others (click to expand)

Hypervolume maximization (2002): "Knowles and Corne were the first to propose the integration of the hypervolume indicator into the optimization process. In particular, they described a strategy to maintain a separate bounded archive of nondominated solutions based on the hypervolume indicator", J. Bader (2009)

Multiobjective memetic algorithms (2000): "Knowles and Corne proposed a greedy local search method mainly based on dominance relation. Their idea is to accept a new neighborhood solution if it dominates the current solution... An obvious advantage of dominance relation is its independence on any monotonic transformation of objective functions." A. Jaszkiewicz et al. (2012)

Adaptive grid-based archiving (1999): "Since the procedure is adaptive, no extra parameters are required [...] . This adaptive grid (or variations of it) has been adopted by several modern multiobjective evolutionary algorithms." C. A. C. Coello (2006).

PAES algorithm (1999): "... the most competitive algorithm" [concerning scalability in decision space, and] "...the second best algorithm in terms of speed." J. J. Durillo et al. (2008), an empirical comparison of scalability of MOEAs.

Multiobjectivization (2001): "...researchers proposed the so-called 'multiobjectivization' by which a single-objective optimization problem is decomposed into several subcomponents considering a multi-objective approach (Jensen, 2003), (Knowles et al., 2001). This procedure has been found to be helpful in removing local optima from a problem and has attracted a lot of attention in the last few years." C. A. C. Coello (2006)

ParEGO (2006): "In ParEGO, the nondifferentiabilities are smoothed out by the surrogate model, making the actual EI criterion continuous and differentiable. ... For ParEGO, only one model has to be computed making it the fastest of all approaches." T. Wagner et al. (2010)
"Recently, some researchers have proposed the use of black-box optimization techniques normally adopted in engineering to perform an incredibly low number of fitness function evaluations while still producing reasonably good solutions (see for example (Knowles, 2006))." C. A. C. Coello (2006)


What's happening now? ...see My News.


BSc (Hons); PGCE; MSc (Dist'n); PhD; FHEA

Awards and Fellowships

  • Outstanding IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation Paper Award (2006)
  • BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship (2002-2008)
  • FNRS Chargé de Recherche (Fellowship of the Belgian National Science Fund) (declined 2003)
  • Outstanding IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation Paper Award (2003)
  • EC Marie Curie Posdoctoral Fellowship (2001-2003)

Industrial Collaboration

My PhD was sponsored by BT. Other projects were carried out in collaboration with HBOS, Astra Zeneca, GSK, Waters, Thermo Instruments, and Combimatrix. I did a sabbatical at Theo Chocolate, Seattle and The University of Washington in 2009.

Grant Income

Latest funding:

  • European Commission, Marie Sklodowska Curie Fellowship: MSC-IF-EF-ST "ACTING-NOW" 704330 Krzysztof Michalak (Fellow) / Joshua Knowles (Host / PI). Algorithmic Containment of Threats in Graphs, Networks, Webs.
  • EPSRC institutional fund: Achieving the earliest diagnosis of Cancer through a cascaded computational decision support system (co-I)
  • EPSRC institutional (Manchester): Constrained global optimization for fragment-assembly approaches to protein structure prediction (co-I)

Previous funding:

  • BB/I023755/1 MUSCLE: Multi-platform Unbiased optimization of Spectrometry via Closed-Loop Experimentation (PI)
  • BB/C008219/1 MCISB: The Manchester Centre for Integrative Systems Biology (co-I)
  • BBS/A/00013 BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship: Interactive evolutionary search for post-genomic knowledge discovery and prediction using GRID computing (PI)
  • BB/C007158/1 Constrained optimisation of metabolic and signalling pathway models: towards an understanding of the language of cells (co-I)
  • BB/C519038/1 HUSERMET: The human serum metabolome in health and disease (co-I)
  • EP/D013615/1 A convergent strategy for high efficiency quantitative proteomics (co-I)


We (i.e. my students and I) have (or have had) collaborations with the following people -- with my apologies for any omissions.
  • David Corne (Heriot-Watt)
  • Julia Handl (Manchester Business School, UoM)
  • Douglas Kell (Manchester Institute for Biotechnology, UoM)
  • Richard Allmendinger (UCL)
  • Steve O'Hagan (MIB, UoM)
  • Ben Stappers (Jodrell Bank, UoM)
  • John Brooke (IMG / Research Computing Services, UoM)
  • Richard A. Watson (Southampton)
  • Carlos Fonseca (U. Coimbra)
  • Eckart Zitzler (PH Bern)
  • Lothar Thiele (ETH Zurich)
  • Manuel Lopez-Ibanez (IRIDIA, Code, Brussels)
  • Marco Laumanns (IBM)
  • Mark Viant (Biological Sciences, U. Birmingham)
  • Warwick Dunn (Biological Sciences, U. Birmingham)
  • Shan He (Computer Science, U. Birmingham)
  • Robert Synovec (University of Washington, Seattle)
  • Andy McShea (Theo Chocolate, Seattle)
  • Liz Humston (University of Washington, Seattle)
  • Leonora Bianchi (IDSIA)
  • Will Rowe (Faculty of Life Sciences, UoM)
  • Mark Platt (Loughborough)
  • Chris Knight (Faculty of Life Sciences, UoM)
  • Philip J. Day (School of Chemistry / MIB, UoM)
  • David Wedge (Sanger Institute)
  • Martin Brown (Control Systems Centre, EEE, UoM)
  • David Brough (Faculty of Life Sciences, UoM)
  • Ben Small (Faculty of Life Sciences, UoM)
  • Pedro Mendes (School of Computer Science / MIB)
  • Nancy Rothwell (Faculty of Life Sciences, UoM)
  • Marco Dorigo (IRIDIA, Free University of Brussels)
  • Norman Paton (School of Computer Science, UoM)
  • Sandra Sampaio (School of Computer Science, UoM)
  • Ludi Mikhailov (Manchester Business School, UoM)
  • Paul Popelier (School of Chemistry / MIB, UoM)
  • Roy Goodacre (School of Chemistry / MIB, UoM)
  • Robin Purshouse (Sheffield)
  • Shaul Salomon (Sheffield)
  • Valentina di Pietro (Medical School, UoB)
  • Andrew Peet (Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, UoB)
  • Georgios Gkoutos (Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, UoB)