Co-evolution of Meta-Modeling Syntax and Informal Semantics in Domain-Specific Modeling Environments - A Case Study of AUTOSAR
Paper in proceedings, 2017
One domain-specific modeling environment is centered around a domain-specific meta-model which defines syntax (modeling elements, e.g., classes) for the domain models. However, in order for the system designers to be able to construct meaningful models, semantics of the domain-specific meta-model needs to be described as well. This semantics is often provided in a form of informal natural language specifications that contain a set of design requirements, each describing the intended use of one or more modeling elements. Intuitively, introduction of new concepts into the modeling environment is expected to require changes in both meta-modeling syntax and informal semantics in such a way that their co-evolution is highly correlated. In order to test this hypothesis, we analyzed the relation between added classes, attributes, and connectors, as meta-modeling syntax, and modified/added design requirements, as meta-modeling semantics, in a case study of the AUTOSAR meta-modeling environment. We found that new AUTOSAR concepts usually require both new modeling elements and new design requirements, but surprisingly adding more elements is not always followed by more requirements. This finding is also validated by the moderately strong correlation between the evolution of these two AUTOSAR meta-modeling artifacts (Spearman's rho 0,63 and Kendall's tau 0,49). For system designers, this means that both meta-modeling syntax and informal semantics is important to be considered in the analysis of domain-specific meta-model evolution, but it may not be enough for understanding the use of all modeling elements. For designers responsible for the maintenance of domain-specific meta-models, this means that more effort shall be put into describing the semantics of all introduced modeling elements.