DePaul University’s School of Computing, part of the College of Computing and Digital Media, has received a $2 million Major Research Instrumentation grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help researchers develop new and innovative ways to make complex computer software systems even more reliable and secure.
“When building software, especially software that is safety-critical, such as that for the airline industry or the space program, it’s imperative to know that the software meets all regulatory codes and functions exactly as it was specified,” says Jane Cleland-Huang, associate professor of computer science and the grant’s principal investigator. “Furthermore, the agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration require that every line of code must trace back to a requirement. That could, for example, prevent a rogue programmer from injecting malicious code.”
The grant will fund TraceLab, an instrument that will allow traceability researchers to design and run experiments and evaluate the outcomes of their work using standardized benchmarks. The grant is the NSF’s largest ever instrumentation grant for developing a purely software-based instrument. It is the sixth and largest traceability grant Cleland-Huang has received during her eight years at DePaul.
Incorporating traceability into a large software system is an arduous, highly complex task, Cleland-Huang says. “Our research community is working toward automating the task to make it much simpler. TraceLab will allow new researchers in the field to become productive much more quickly and will encourage innovation.”
In addition to supporting research to improve software project productivity and software reliability, TraceLab also will promote the adoption of traceability solutions to companies and will be used to train software engineering students and practitioners.
By the end of the three-year grant, TraceLab will be open-sourced to the public and will be managed by researchers at the Center of Excellence for Software Traceability, where Cleland-Huang is the North American director.
At DePaul, Ed Keenan, a computing senior instructor, and Mamoun Hirzalla, a doctoral candidate, are collaborating on the grant. External partners are from the University of Kentucky, the College of William and Mary, Kent State University and Siemens Corporate Research.