Modeling variability in regulatory requirements

Keywords: requirements engineering, model-driven engineering, model analysis and understanding, information retrieval


Software systems designed to perform safety functions must conform to an increasing set of regulatory requirements. These regulations are provided in large and heterogeneous documents: regulatory documents, guides, standards and even tacit knowledge [1] acquired from anterior projects in the past. Second, regulatory requirements are most often disconnected from the technical system requirements, which capture the expected system behavior. Third, regulation changes over time and from one country to another. These three characteristics of safety regulations represent major challenges for requirements engineers who must demonstrate the compliance between system requirements and regulation [2]. This project investigates the following research question: can we formalize these safety requirements to assist the requirements compliance demonstration?
During this PhD, we will address trace retrieval between regulatory and system requirements [3], and the systematic identification of variation points within regulatory requirements to assess the impact of a change on the system requirements. Both tasks will rely on metamodeling state-of-the-art techniques to improve the structure of requirements description through a strong type system, and to perform impact analysis on a formal requirements model. In particular, we will investigate the retrieval of variability models within requirements, following a software product line paradigm [4].
This work focuses on digital Instrumentation and Control (I&C) systems in nuclear power plants. I&C systems that cover a wide scope from instrumentation to monitor physical conditions in the plant (e.g., temperature, pressure, or radiation), systems to assure safe shutdown of the reactor during any deviation from normal operation or accident conditions, to all the equipment for human operators to control the behavior of the plant. The PhD candidate will be involved in the CONNEXION project, funded by the French ministry for industry, which gathers major industrial actors of the nuclear domain and academic researchers, in order to improve certification and safety of I&C systems.

Contact: Benoit Baudry (


[1] N. Kiyavitskaya, N. Zeni, T. D. Breaux, A. I. Antón, J. R. Cordy, L. Mich, J. Mylopoulos. “Automating the Extraction of Rights and Obligations for Regulatory Compliance”. In (ER’08), Barcelona, Spain, pp. 154-168, Oct. 2008.
[2] R. K. Panesar-Walawege, M. Sabetzadeh, L. Briand. “A Model-Driven Engineering Approach to Support the Verification of Compliance to Safety Standards”. In (ISSRE’11), Hiroshima, Japan, December 2011
[3] J. Cleland-Huang , A. Czauderna, M. Gibiek, J. Emenecker. “A machine learning approach for tracing regulatory codes to product specific requirements”. In (ICSE 2010), Cape Town, South Africa, ACM: 155-164, 2010
[4] N. Sannier, B. Baudry, T. Nguyen. “Formalizing standards and regulations variability in longlife projects. A challenge for Model-driven engineering”, In (MoDRE 2011), 2011.
[5] B. H. C. Cheng, J. M. Atlee: “Research Directions in Requirements Engineering”. Future of Software Engineering 2007, p. 285-303
[6] Andreas Classen, Patrick Heymans, Pierre-Yves Schobbens: What’s in a Feature: A Requirements Engineering Perspective. FASE 2008: 16-30

Working Environment

The PhD candidate will work at Inria in the Triskell team. Inria is the French national institute for research in computer science. There are 8 Inria research centres located throughout France, hosting more than 200 research teams. The Triskell team is located in Rennes. Triskell’s research is in the area of software engineering, focusing on model-driven engineering and software testing. The team is actively involved in European, French and industrial projects and is composed of 7 faculty members, 20 PhD students and 4 engineers. The position is already open and applications will be reviewed until the position is filled. The monthly net salary is 1600 euros and the contract is for 36 months.


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