19.05.13 - 24.05.13, Seminar 13211

Automated Reasoning on Conceptual Schemas

The following text appeared on our web pages prior to the seminar, and was included as part of the invitation.

Motivation

The quality of an information system is largely determined early in the development cycle, i.e., during requirements specification and conceptual modeling. Moreover, errors introduced at these stages are usually much more expensive to correct than errors made during design or implementation. Thus, it is desirable to prevent, detect, and correct errors as early as possible in the development process by assessing the correctness of the conceptual schemas built. The high expressivity of conceptual schemas requires to adopt automating reasoning techniques to support the designer in this important task.

Automated reasoning on a conceptual schema allows one to determine its semantic quality. Semantic quality can be seen from two different perspectives. First, from an internal point of view, the definition of the schema must be correct. That is, the schema must be right in the sense that it does not include contradictions or redundancies in its specification. Verification of a conceptual schema consists in assessing its internal correctness. Second, from an external point of view, the schema must be the right one. In other words, the information represented in the schema must correspond to the requirements of the application being built. Clearly, a schema must necessarily be right to be the right one. Validation of a conceptual schema consists in assessing its external correctness, that is, its compliance with the requirements.

Research in this area can be classified according to two different dimensions. On the one hand, according to the language used to specify the conceptual schema, being Entity-Relationship (ER), Unified Modeling Language (UML) and Object-Role Modeling (ORM) the most well-known ones. On the other hand, according to whether reasoning is performed on the schema alone, on the schema and additional (textual) constraints, or also on the dynamic (i.e., behavioral) aspects of the schema.

We may find interesting and promising results from all these communities but, in this situation, it is extremely important that they communicate with each other to avoid duplicate effort and to exploit synergies. In this context, the research questions to be pursued and answered in the seminar include, but are not restricted to:

  • Is there any decidable subset of ER/UML/ORM that is expressive enough to be used in real applications?
  • Does it make sense to renounce to decidability to be able to handle the full expressive power of ER/UML/ORM with and without textual integrity constraints?
  • Which is the current state of the achievements as far as reasoning on the behavioral part is concerned?
  • How efficient are the current proposals to be able to automatically reason about conceptual schemas in practice?
  • Is it possible to properly take into account and deal with the distinction between finite and infinite satisfiability of a conceptual schema in the developed techniques and tools?
  • Are the existing techniques and tools ready to be used in an industrial environment?

This seminar will bring together:

  • researchers working on automated reasoning on ER, UML, and ORM conceptual schemas;
  • researchers who have addressed reasoning on the structural schema alone, with the structural schema and textual integrity constraints, or reasoning also on the behavioral schema;
  • experts from industry who have explicitly shown their interest on automated reasoning on conceptual schemas.