Call for Participation



Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, November 8-9, 2012.


Most academic disciplines are concerned with their general theories. Standard textbooks in subjects ranging from optics to circuit theory to psychology to organizational theory to international relations either present one single theory as the subject's core or discuss a limited set of alternative theories to explain the discipline's essence to its students. A prime example is the central role of Maxwell's equations in the subject of electrical engineering. It's difficult to fathom what electrical engineering would be today without those four concise equations. A quite different example is the contested Domino theory, which heavily influenced American foreign policy in the 1950s to 1980s by speculating that one nation's embrace of communism would entail the conversion of surrounding countries in a domino effect. Even though electrical engineering and political science are different in almost all respects, they're both highly interested and invested in their theories. Software engineering, however, isn't overly concerned with its core theory. If asked, the community surely couldn't give a coherent answer about which is the most important one.

The Semat Initiative was launched as "a process to re-found software engineering based on a solid theory, proven principles, and best practices." The call for action noted a current "lack of a sound, widely accepted theoretical basis" of software engineering. But why should software engineering bother with theory? The most important thing that theory does, and which is of significant benefit, is to lift us out of the costly practice of trial and error. Instead of discovering the wrong path by experience, we can do so by simulating the effects of our choices, either with the help of a computer or simply in our minds. Such simulation is thus the basis of efficient design. And such simulation is based theory, which can be viewed as a system of rules that mimics the real world, but at virtually zero cost.

This workshop, organized by the Semat initiative, aims to provide a forum for discussing the concept of a general theory in software engineering. What is a general software engineering theory? Can there be such a theory? What are the benefits of a general theory? What should it consist of? What should its form be? The workshop aims for an explorative discussion on questions such as these.


The aim of the workshop is discussion rather than presentation. Therefore, the number of participants will be limited and presentations will be brief. The envisioned topics are the following.

• What are the objectives of a theory of software engineering?
• How can a theory be of use in practice?
• What is a useful definition of theory?
• What questions should a theory of software engineering address?
• How foundational/universal should it be?
• What should the main concepts of the theory be?
• Should a theory of software engineering be expressed formally?
• If formalized, what is a suitable language for a theory of software engineering?


We invite prospective participants to submit position papers for any of the topics above. All papers should be submitted through the Web-based submission system (, and using PDF format only. Papers are limited to 2 pages and should be formatted according to the IEEE authoring guidelines (, look for Templates). In order to further discussion, the number of participants is limited. Invitations are based on submissions.


Paper submission     October 8, 2012
Author notification  October 12, 2012
Workshop             November 8-9, 2012



Ivar Jacobson, Ivar Jacobson International, Switzerland

Michael Goedicke, University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Pontus Johnson, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden