Bi-directional transformations (BX) – Theory and Applications Across Disciplines (13w5115)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, December 1 and departing Friday December 6, 2013


(University of Oxford)

(University of York)

(Technische Universität Darmstadt)

(Microsoft Corporation)

(University of Victoria)


Bidirectional transformations (BX) have played an important and growing role in many areas of applied computer science. We described above how several fields (SE, DB, PL, and GT) have developed and applied BX formalisms to tackle significant current challenges. Moreover, new fields in applied computer science are discovering BX as a potential solution to current and ongoing challenges. One important such area is health informatics, which concerns the design, construction and implementation of computer-based systems in support of health care. Recently, governments have been investing significant resources in research and development of computer based interoperable health information systems. However, new safety, security, privacy and effectiveness risks arise with the design of such interoperable systems and recent failures with existing systems show the concrete need for better science and engineering methods. As a result to software-based accidents, health software has become a regulated commodity, with regulatory bodies (such as the U.S. FDA and Health Canada) asking software developers for objective evidence about the safety and effectiveness of their products. BX formalisms and techniques have potential important applications in the design of such ‘proven’ software components and infrastructures, as the interoperability problem can largely be abstracted as a model integration problem.

The BIRS workshop proposed in 2013 will build on the momentum and results generated at the previous Dagstuhl seminar on BX (2011), and the inaugural GRACE meeting on BX in 2008. Both of these previous events focused on the exploration of the fundamental concepts and theories underlying bx in each of the represented area. They also helped in identifying commonalties and differences. While we will continue this work in the proposed workshop, we will shift our focus more to the next step, namely the alignment and integration of different concepts, formalisms and techniques. Both, mathematical theory (e.g., category theory) and concrete application challenge problems (“bx benchmarks”) are good vehicles to facilitate such an integration effort. Research activities on both of these fronts (theory and application) have been started at the Dagstuhl meeting and the bx community has worked towards these objectives. An important objective of the proposed BIRS workshop is to consolidate and spur these efforts. In particular, the workshop organizers will prepare and publish foundational concepts and benchmarks to the invited participants prior to the workshop, in order to focus the discussion and optimize synergy.

Other objectives of the BIRS workshop are
- To achieve a fair mix of senior and young researchers across nations and continents as well as a significant participation from industry
- To guarantee a well-balanced representation of the four major involved communities (DB, SE, PL, GT) - and to reach out to new communities in which BX have become important (e.g., health informatics - HI); as a consequence, the number of participants from the DB community compared to the preceding Dagstuhl-BX seminar must increase
- Introduction of a new generation of young researchers to the different aspects and subcommunities of bx (via a set of tutorials)
- Definition of a common vocabulary of terms and desirable properties of bidirectional transformations (elaborated by a task force with members of all four communities that meets daily during the seminar and publishes its results afterwards in the form of a Wiki)
- Extension and merging of existing taxonomies for (bidirectional) transformation languages and implementations of the four involved communities in the form of a separate task force that will rely on the results of the “vocabulary defining” task force mentioned above
- Study different bx formalisms and their synergy with a suite of bx benchmarks and assess progress in the field with respect to expressiveness, readability, and efficiency of different approaches.
- Presentation of new solutions for research challenges identified at the Dagstuhl-BX workshop as well as presentation of new “hot” open problems within the four subcommunities
- An in-depth discussion focused on identifying opportunities and limits for adaptation of techniques of one community to problems of another community.
- Making progress towards a joint effort to write a “Bidirectional Transformations Handbook”