Carnegie Mellon University
October 21, 2016

Breaux Receives Honorable Mention for Most Influential Paper Award

By Josh Quicksall

Breaux Receives Honorable Mention for Most Influential Paper Award

Mapping the shifting landscape of legal regulation to the equally tumultuous process of designing software is no simple task. Dr. Travis Breaux’s work has made significant progress in automating the challenge, and this work has led to recognition at the 24th IEEE Requirements Engineering Conference (RE) hosted in Beijing, China this year.

Breaux’s 2006 research paper, entitled “Towards Compliance: Extracting Rights and Obligations to Align Requirements with Regulations,” received an Honorable Mention for the Most Influential Paper Award at the conference this past month.

The paper, co-authored with Matthew Vail and Dr. Annie Antón, was nominated for the award, which recognizes the most influential research contributions to the RE community in the last 10 years.

Breaux’s work describes a method for extracting software requirements from regulations, including steps for composing correct legal interpretations of requirements from laws, heuristics for distinguishing mandatory from discretionary requirements, and techniques for discovering implied rights and obligations. The method was later applied to discover over 300 privacy requirements governing U.S. health care systems, including complex exceptions to those requirements.  And the technique was put to the test, generating requirements patterns for translating laws into product requirements in a case study with CISCO systems.

Martin Glinz, who was the Program Chair of RE'06 in Minneapolis, MN, where Breaux's work was initially presented, notes that the impact of the top three nominated papers was significant, and “we deemed it to be appropriate not only to give the award to the winner, but also give an honorable mention to the two runners-up. [Breaux’s work] particularly stood out as being the paper that spawned the sub-field of studying requirements in the context of legal/regulatory compliance.”

Building on the momentum from his 2006 work, Breaux has since gone on to develop a machine-readable, legal requirements specification language; techniques for prioritizing legal requirements from across multiple jurisdictions; legal patterns that regulators use to control and evolve security systems at industrial-scale; and new theory to predict differences among legal interpretations of legal experts, software developers and lay people.

Co-Founder of the IEEE International Workshop on Requirements Engineering and Law (RELAW), Breaux is also a recipient of the prestigious NSF CAREER award for his contributions and future plans in this research area.