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Dagstuhl Seminar 9607

Partial Evaluation

( Feb 12 – Feb 16, 1996 )

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  • O. Danvy
  • P. Thiemann
  • R. Glück



Partial evaluation has reached a point where theory and techniques are mature, substantial systems have been developed, and it appears feasible to use partial evaluation in realistic applications. This development is documented in a series of ACM SIGPLAN-sponsored conferences and workshops, Partial Evaluation and Semantics-Based Program Manipulation, held both in the United States and in Europe.

In 1987, the first meeting of researchers in partial evaluation took place in Gammel Avernæs, Denmark. Almost ten years later, the time was due to evaluate the progress that has been achieved during the last decade and to discuss open problems, novel approaches, and research directions. A seminar at the International Conference and Research Center for Computer Science at Schloß Dagstuhl, located in a beautiful scenic region in the southwest of Germany, seemed ideally suited for that purpose.

The meeting brought together specialists on partial evaluation, partial deduction, metacomputation, program analysis, automatic program transformation, and semantics-based program manipulation. The attendants were invited to explore the dimensions of program specialization, program analysis, treatment of programs as data objects, and their applications. Besides discussing major achievements or failures and their reasons, the main topics were:

  • Advances in Theory:Program specialization has undergone a rapid development during the last decade. Despite its widespread use, a number of theoretical issues still need to be resolved, including efficient treatment of programs as data objects; metalevel techniques including reflection, self-application, and metasystem transition; issues in generating and/or hand-writing program generators; termination and generalization issues in different languages; related topics in program analysis including abstract interpretation, flow analysis, and type inference; the relationships between different transformation paradigms, such as automated deduction, theorem proving, and program synthesis.
  • Towards Computational Practice:Academic research has thrived in many locations. Broad practical experience has been gained, and stronger and larger program specializers have been built for a variety of languages, including Scheme, ML, Prolog, and C. Work is being initiated to bring the achievements of theory into practical use but a number of pragmatic issues still need to be resolved: progress towards medium- and large-scale applications; environments and user interfaces (e.g., binding-time debuggers); integration of partial evaluation into the software development process; automated software reuse.
  • Larger Perspectives:We also wanted to critically assess state-of-the-art techniques, summarize new approaches and insights, and survey challenging problems.

  • O. Danvy
  • P. Thiemann
  • R. Glück