Merging Partial Behavioural Models


Constructing comprehensive operational models of expected system behaviour is a complex and costly task. Consequently, practitioners have adopted techniques that support incremental elaboration of partial behaviour descriptions. A noteworthy example is the wide adoption of scenario-based notations such as message sequence charts. Scenario-based specifications are partial descriptions that can be incrementally elaborated to cover the system behaviour that is of interest. However, how should partial behaviour models described by different stakeholders with different viewpoints covering different aspects of behaviour be composed? How should partial models of component instances of the same type be put together?

In this paper, we propose model merging as a general solution to these questions. We formally define model merging based on observational refinement and show that merging consistent models is a process that should result in a minimal common refinement. Because minimal common refinements are not guaranteed to be unique, we argue that the system modeller should participate in the process of elaborating such a model. We also discuss the role of the least common refinement and the greatest lower bound of all minimal common refinements in this elaboration process. In addition, we provide algorithms for i) checking consistency between two models; ii) constructing their least common refinement if one exists; iii) supporting the construction of a minimal common refinement if there is no least common refinement.