A Common Framework for Algebraic Specification

[This summary is being sent also to all WADT'95 participants, and to
 the news-groups comp.specification.misc, comp.specification.larch]

An open collaborative effort has been initiated: to design a 

        Common Framework for Algebraic Specification.  

The rationale behind this initiative is that the lack of such a
framework greatly hinders the dissemination and application of
research results.  In particular, the proliferation of specification
languages, some differing in only quite minor ways from each other, is
a considerable obstacle for the use of algebraic methods in industrial
contexts, making it difficult to exploit standard examples, case
studies and training material.  A common framework with widespread
support throughout the research community is urgently needed.

The initiative has been started by COMPASS (ESPRIT Basic Research
WG 6112), in cooperation with IFIP WG 14.3 (Foundations of
Systems Specification), but participation is already not confined to
members of those groups.  Some 25 leading researchers in algebraic
specification have already agreed to participate, and others are being
invited to join.

The current aim is to base the common framework as much as possible on
a critical selection of features that have already been explored in
various contexts.  The collective experience and expertise of the 
participants provides a unique opportunity to achieve this aim within
a short time-span.  The common framework will provide a family of
languages at different levels:

  *--*--*  - various (possibly incompatible) extension languages,
   \ | /     e.g. oriented to particular programming paradigms.
     *     - a single, reasonably expressive common specification language
    /|\      (narrow-spectrum, but more expressive than e.g. Larch).
   / | \
  *--*--*  - various sub-languages, e.g. executable, unparametrized.

The immediate sub-goals are:

Month   Objective
-----   ---------
Nov 95  Agreement on detailed statements of aims and means.
        Catalogue of constructs from existing specification languages.

Mar 96  Tentative proposal for constructs of the common specification

Sep 96  Firm proposal for constructs of the common specification language. 
        Tentative proposals for common framework sub-languages.
        Tentative proposals for methodology and tool support.
        Plan for development of common framework extension languages.

Sub-groups of the participants are focussing on particular issues.
Coordination of the collaborative effort is by means of moderated
mailing lists, WWW databases, sub-group meetings, and plenary meetings
(held adjacent to major conferences, to minimize travel).

Further details about the common framework initiative, including
information about how to participate, will be made available on WWW
at URL:


\|/  Peter D. Mosses  <pdmosses@brics.aau.dk>
CFI  Coordinator, Common Framework Initiative
/|\  WWW http://www.daimi.aau.dk/~pdm/Common/