Safety and Open Source

Subplot - documenting your criteria for success

Expressing argumentation in a validatable way
Daniel Silverstone
<p>Believing a system is safe is not the same as knowing it meets all the criteria defined to demonstrate that safety. Too often is the argumentation around the safety of a system presented as a document for humans to agree on, which is disconnected from the mechanism of asserting compliance with that argumentation. Subplot is a tool for processing documents containing such argumentation along with verification scenarios which are both human <em>and</em> machine readable so that this disconnect can be resolved.</p> <p>This talk introduces Subplot and describes the concept.</p>
Software engineers usually understand requirements and testing against requirements. All too often though, those responsible for the safety of a system do not understand how to express requirements which can be understood by engineers, such that the system can be verified. This could be for a myriad reasons, but usually it is due to a gulf between those who are specifying how to determine that a system is safe, and those who are implementing the system. Subplot demonstrates how stakeholders at all stages of system design and implementation can come together to maintain a document which describes the criteria which, if met, demonstrate compliance with the safety argumentation made about the system. This document can then be rendered as a PDF or some stand-alone HTML for presentation to non-engineer stakeholders for confirmation. Subplot can also generate a test program, from such a document, that when run will perform all of the verification scenarios contained in the document and produce a final report. While Subplot is fairly new software, still under active development, the concepts in Subplot are built on those explored in a decade-old previous project, by the same authors, which considered similar problems purely from a software engineering perspective, used a similar Gherkin-inspired language and Markdown input structure, and was used in a variety of projects for paying customers; proving the concept works. Subplot is a refinement of this older implementation.

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