About our Project

MATILDA is a research platform developed via the project “Stress-testing algorithms: generating new test instances to elicit insights”. The project has been funded by the Australian Research Council under the Australian Laureate Fellowship scheme awarded to Professor Kate Smith-Miles (2014-2019). The project aims to develop powerful new methodologies and tools to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of algorithms, and new test instance generation methods to support such analysis. The methodology has been applied to a wide variety of “algorithmic science” fields including: combinatorial optimisation, continuous black-box optimisation, machine learning, time series forecasting, software testing, and several other fields.

What is the significance of our research?

For many classes of problems there are numerous algorithms that have been developed. However, the No Free Lunch Theorems suggest that we should not expect one algorithm to outperform all others across all possible instances of the problem. Different algorithms employ different underlying mechanisms that may exploit certain properties of the data instance, failing to provide good solutions if the instance does not possess such properties that make the algorithm particularly well suited. It is typically an open question to know which algorithm will be the best for solving a given instance of the problem. Thus, if we want to select the most suitable algorithm for a given instance of a problem, it is crucial to understand the strengths and weaknesses of algorithms. New methodologies to support researchers are needed. The toolkit available in MATILDA not only supports insights in the quest for selecting the right algorithm for the right problem; it also helps avoid tedious trial-and-error testing or, even worse, a deployment disaster when an unreliable algorithm is chosen.

About our acronym: MATILDA

Besides being an acronym for the Melbourne Algorithm Test Instance Library with Data Analytics, MATILDA is also a symbolic name for our platform in two ways:

  • Firstly, for Australians the name Matilda is associated with the iconic song "Waltzing Matilda", based on the famous poem of the same name by Australian poet Banjo Paterson, and considered by many as Australia's unofficial national anthem. Australia's women's soccer team is also known as The Matildas.
  • Secondly, our project has been funded by the award from the Australian Research Council of a Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship to Professor Kate Smith-Miles, who received additional funds to support promotion and support of women in science. Our choice of acronym therefore also pays tribute to the many women who have contributed enormously to advancement of knowledge and innovation, but not received the recognition they deserve due to societal biases known as "The Matilda Effect" . We acknowledge the contributions of the invisible and unapplauded, on whose shoulders each of us stands today.

About our Logo

The MATILDA logo is a symbolic representation of the project in three ways.

  • Firstly, the constellations have the appearance of an instance space, with stars being instances, and the boundary joining several of them (labelled as M-A-T-I-L-D-A) reminiscent of an algorithm footprint in the instance space.
  • Secondly, the path joining the M-A-T-I-L-D-A stars is also a Hamiltonian cycle, relating to one of our library problems (Travelling Salesman Problem).
  • Finally, the astute observer will recognise that the M-A-T-I-L-D-A stars contain the Southern Cross , the best known and most easily recognised star group in the Southern Hemisphere, as viewed from Melbourne where the MATILDA team is based.