28. April – 03. Mai 2013, Dagstuhl Seminar 13182

Meta-Modeling Model-Based Engineering Tools


Tony Clark (Middlesex University, GB)
Robert B. France (Colorado State University, US)
Martin Gogolla (Universität Bremen, DE)
Bran V. Selic (Malina Software Corp. – Nepean, CA)

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The 33 participants at the Meta-Modeling Model-Based Engineering Tools (M^3BET) Dagstuhl Seminar were brought together to explore how model-based engineering (MBE) techniques can be used to improve the quality of software modeling tools. The participants included expert researchers, practitioners and tool developers in the software/system modeling and the human computer interaction communities. The discussions aimed to answer the following question: Can MBE techniques be used to produce more effective MBE tools, and, if so, how should it be done?

The vision underlying the seminar is one in which technologists create tool models that specify desired tool features, and tool modeling frameworks that are used to analyze, compose, transform, simulate and otherwise manipulate the tool models. In the vision, tool developers will use tool models and frameworks to produce useful, usable and cost-effective software modeling tools.

Seminar Organization

The final seminar program is given in Figure 1. On the first day the seminar objective and outcomes were presented. The seminar objectives, as presented on that day, was to better understand the !what, why, and how" of tool models, and initiate work on (1) languages for tool modeling, (2) MBE methods and technologies for tool development, and (3) tool modeling frameworks.

The planned outcomes were (1) reports on the results of group discussions, (2) a research roadmap for achieving the tool modeling vision, (3) potential solutions for achieving the vision, and (4) initiation of new research collaborations among participants.

To help shape and initiate the discussions, the organizers proposed the following as an initial set of breakout group topics:

Tool capabilities - The intent was that discussions in this group would focus on identifying the software tool capabilities that should be captured in tool models, and on how these capabilities could be captured in tool metamodels. This covers discussions on (1) how metamodels can be used to describe tool capabilities in a manner that supports generation of high-quality tool components, (2) the utility and feasibility of defining tool metamodels, (3) potential benefits associated with and purposes served by a tool metamodel, and (4) challenges associated with developing an effective metamodel (i.e., a metamodel that is fit-for-purpose).

Tool ecosystems - A tool framework can be thought of as a technological ecosystem that involves both tools as well as tool users. Discussions in this group would seek answers to questions such as: What are the features of a good tools framework? Are there candidate frameworks available? If so, are they sufficient or do they need to be extended?

Tool development methods -- Discussions in this group would focus on answering the following questions: How can MBE be applied to the development of MBE tools? What types of languages are suitable for describing tools? How can tool quality issues be addressed by such methods?

Working Groups

During the discussions on group topics it was decided to base the groups on tool concerns and issues that the participants had some stake in. It turned out that the concerns and issues that arose from the discussions were mostly derived from those underlying the groups proposed by the organizers.

The concerns and issues were then clustered into two groups based on participant interests. Group A consisted of usability, utility, and broader non-technical concerns (e.g., designing tools that support how developers work and think, designing and performing usability studies, adapting tool features to user expertise and desired level of formality, marketing/business/cultural concerns). Group B consisted of the more technical concerns, for example, concerns related to tool development methods, scalability, support for separation of concerns, tool quality assessment and benchmarking.

Group B concerns were further grouped into two categories: Composition, and Methods and Quality concerns. The Composition concerns included issues related to tool, language, and model composition, and the use of multi-models with heterogeneous semantics.

Three Working Groups, each focusing on one of the above concern groups, were formed on the seminar's first day. A summary of the discussions that took place in each group is included in the report.

Summary and Future Work

One of the major insights gained during the seminar was that a good understanding of the utility of tool models and the identification of appropriate forms of tool models/metamodels requires one to first address more fundamental tool development and assessment concerns. On hindsight, this should not have been a surprising result; effective tool models would have to capture significant tool development and assessment experience and knowledge and thus such experience and knowledge needs to be distilled first. The seminar provided a good forum for discussing and organizing the experience and knowledge of the participants. Post-seminar collaborations that will utilize these results to develop an initial set of tool models/metamodels were initiated at the seminar.

In addition to the planned collaborations on tool models, the participants also agreed to engage in the following post-seminar activities:

  • Publications: The following publications are planned
    • A special issue of the Software and System Modeling (SoSyM) journal that will include articles that focus on the concerns and issues discussed at the seminar.
    • A paper that discusses problems associated with current software modeling tools.
  • Workshops: Workshops in which participants will discuss and develop tool models/meta- models will be held at conferences such as MODELS 2014 and ICSE 2014.
  Creative Commons BY 3.0 Unported license
  Tony Clark and Robert B. France and Martin Gogolla and Bran V. Selic


  • Modelling / Simulation
  • Software Engineering


  • Model-Based Engineering
  • Meta-modelling
  • Software Tools
  • Software Standards
  • Quality.


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