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TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University


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Big Software on the Run

The NIRICT.BSR project is unique in bringing together the (objectively) best computer science researchers in the Netherlands, taking the paradigm shift from a priori to a posteriori as a common frame of thinking and forming a coherent “software analytics” research plan based on this shift, providing a realistic approach to the urgent challenges of “software on the run”. The goal of the NIRICT.BSR project is to provide a scientific basis for this paradigm shift in taming software complexity. The NIRICT.BSR project is funded directly by the 4TU federation. 

About the project

Although information and communication technology (ICT) has heralded enormous benefits, it has also made society entirely dependent on ever more complex, connected computer programs. This dependency also means, however, vulnerability. The traditional a priori focus on controlled software design increases the vulnerability; instead, this project focuses on a new “Software-On-The-Run” approach based on a posteriori monitoring and providing feedback. It combines the very best researchers in this new methodology, developing novel techniques in process mining, visualization, security, feedback, and analytics.

Research abstract

Software forms an integral part of the most complex artifacts built by humans. Modern operating systems, such as Windows or Linux, contain hundreds of millions of program statements, written by thousands of different programmers, spanning numerous decades. Their complexity surpasses the comprehensive abilities of any one individual human being. Physical sciences and engineering have enhanced our physical capabilities to apply controlled force, for example in the field of transportation and building. Computer science, on the other hand, provides us with enhancements of our mental capabilities. Taming the complexity of software — or more broadly, of information and communication technology (ICT) — has been a constant theme in computer science from its beginnings in the 1950s and 1960s.

Currently, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in how this is achieved. Traditionally, scientists attempt to ensure that software is built to satisfy stringent requirements. This a priori approach assumes that one has total control over the production process of all software. Modern incarnations of this approach require that ICT products are certified, for instance within the Common Criteria framework. The emerging approach involves a shift from a priori to a posteriori. It recognizes that in most situations one does not have control over the production/origin of software and that the complexities involved in modern distributed, constantly evolving computer systems preclude a priori control. In a posteriori control the emphasis is on (automated) monitoring of computer systems and communication, in order to understand actual behavior, be it wanted or unwanted. Running software has become a new reality, comparable to the physical or biological reality, requiring a new form of empirical investigation.

Process mining delivers insight into complex patterns of system behavior. Via advanced graphical visualization techniques, it will be possible to recognize relevant behavior and patterns. These patterns will be used in several ways:


NIRICT.BSR obtains knowledge utilization in three ways — all aimed at maximizing the uptake of utilizable new knowledge by industry, society, and the research community at large.

Firstly, the dissemination of the project’s ideas and the stimulation provided to the industry to adopt such ideas will be enhanced by the pivotal roles all members of the project play in this flourishing and active academic ecosystem.

Secondly, the consortium will maximize knowledge dissemination via the organization of national and international conferences for junior and senior colleague researchers as well as for industrial and societal stakeholders.

Thirdly and finally, the consortium will push for dissemination of knowledge and interaction with stakeholders, not only via traditional academic channels but especially via open source data and software.

Contact Person

Prof. Wil van der Aalst 

+31 (40) 247 42 95