Research Proposals

This page collects some research topics for Master and Bachelor theses. The subjects are aligned with the ongoing research projects, our teaching, and reflect the interdisciplinary nature of our department. This list is not exaustive and may be not fully updated, so do not hesitate to contact us for further information.

Theses proposals

Norms and scenario alignment in organizations

Research Themes: Flexibility of Organizations, Processes, and Information Systems / Requirements, Models, and Specifications / Scenario development and Simulation

PROBLEM DESCRIPTION

Business rules and contracts are crucial artifacts for the definition of the organizational institution: they formally prescribe the roles of internal and of external components of the organization. On the other hand, user cases – concerning happy-flow activities and known failure scenarios – provide descriptive behavioural representations of the underlying socio-economic interactions.
Our group is currently working on leveraging interactional interpretations of the fundamental concepts at stake in normative expressions (obligation, power, etc., recently organized in the “Hohfeldian prisms”), in order to fill the gap between rules, business process models and intentional representations of behaviour.

We aim to introduce scenario-based modeling/design methodologies, already established in software and system engineering, in the IT & organization domain. Potential applications consist of integrating use-cases for policy/design validation, contract drafting and negotiation, failure (including fraud) prevention and detection, analysis of reward/punishment design patterns, etc. Part of the research is developed and tested in partnership with other organizations.

Given the complexity of the quest, various abstractions are possible, addressing different aspects of the problem. There is room for 5-6 students, with separate objectives and theses, but elaborating on the same conceptual framework. This is a not exhaustive list of topics concerning the research:

  • transformation of rule representations to visual representations (e.g. Petri-Nets)
  • integration of normative positions in Petri-Nets and in BPMN, and relative transformations
  • reconstructing Petri-Nets or BPMN from actual cases
  • conception of user-interfaces:
    • integrating the Hohfeldian prisms in contract modeling,
    • integrating the Hohfeldian prisms in scenario modeling,
  • integrating the intentional stance in scenario modeling
  • conception of an execution/visualization engine for scenarios
  • analysis and visualization of punishment and reward design patterns
  • analysis of the topological transformations of a Petri-Net (from cohesion to coupling)
  • transformations of topological representations to agent programs
  • evaluation of the proposed UI/visualizations with experts in organizations

The specific subject will depend on personal motivation, skills, and previous knowledge.

CONTACT PERSON(S)

Alexander Boer, a.w.f.boer@uva.nl, Leibniz Center for Law
Giovanni Sileno, g.sileno@uva.nl, Leibniz Center for Law

RELEVANT LITERATURE

  • Sileno, G., Boer, A., & van Engers, T. (2014). On the Interactional Meaning of Fundamental Legal Concepts. In Proceedings 27th International Conference on Legal Knowledge and Information Systems (JURIX 2014).
  • Boer, A., & Engers, T. (2013). Agile: a problem-based model of regulatory policy making. Artificial Intelligence and Law, 21(4), 399–423.
  • Sileno, G., Boer, A., & van Engers, T. (2014). From Inter-Agent to Intra-Agent Representations: Mapping Social Scenarios to Agent-Role Descriptions. In Proceedings 6th International Conference on Agents and Artificial Intelligence (ICAART 2014).
  • Boer, A., & van Engers, T. (2011). Diagnosis of Multi-Agent Systems and Its Application to Public Administration. In Business Information Systems Workshops (Vol. 97, pp. 258–269).
  • D. Harel and R. Marelly. Specifying and executing behavioral requirements: The play-in/play-out approach. Software and Systems Modeling, 82–107, 2003.
  • J.-F. Raskin, Y.-H. Tan, and L. van der Torre. How to model normative behavior in Petri nets. Proceedings of the 2nd ModelAge: Workshop on Formal Models of Agents, pages 223—241, 1996.
  • Van Der Aalst, W. M. P. (1998). The Application of Petri Nets To Workflow Management. Journal of Circuits, Systems and Computers, 08(01), 21–66.
  • Fahland, D., Lübke, D., & Mendling, J. (2009). Declarative versus imperative process modeling languages: The issue of understandability. Proceeding EMMSAD ’09. (2009) 353-366, 353–366.
  • T. Murata. Petri nets: Properties, analysis and applications. Proceedings of the IEEE, 77(4), 1989

Cognitive agents platform to model complex social behaviour

Research Themes: Agent Programming / Programming languages / Agent-Based Modeling / Concurrent computation

PROBLEM DESCRIPTION

Current cognitive agents programming frameworks (ex. AgentSpeak/Jason, 2APL, Goal, etc.) mostly focus on the logical aspects associated to intentional entities, rather then the computational issues derived from concurrent execution. However, in principle, agents are entities that act concurrently in an environment (shared resources and infrastructures). Their internal cognitive processes may be concurrent as well. In the last months, few prototypes of these platforms have been built on top of functional programming languages, showing an enormous difference in efficiency, compared to the most known implementations, mostly implemented in Java.

On the other side, agent-based modelling frameworks like Repast, AgentScape, etc. refer to models of agents provided with basic rationality, usually not involving concepts like Beliefs-Desires-Intentions. Although there have been proposals in introducing these extensions, results seem to be not satisfactory, probably because of the high overload of these platforms. Furthermore, the configuration and exploitation of such applications still require skills that are not usual for non-IT researcher/practitioners, thus hampering specification by domain experts. Visual programming techniques may probably help in this respect.

Our project aims to develop a full framework for the acquisition, execution and exploitation of social institutional scenarios involving cognitive agents. The agents we are considering are fully non-reflective intentional agents. Their behaviour is deterministically defined according to a script, usually extrated from scenarios provided by experts. Conversely, the behaviour resulting from the interaction between several agents is not deterministic.

The underlying model we focus on is agent-role, which add intentionality to the role abstraction. The components of the agent-role model should be sufficient for a complete first-order theory of mind.

Given the complexity of the quest, various abstractions are possible, addressing different aspects of the problem. There is room for 3-4 students, with separate objectives and theses, but elaborating on the same conceptual framework. This is a not exhaustive list of topics concerning the research:

  • definition of agent-role model components:
    • intents, beliefs, reactive plans, maintenance goals, desires, etc.
    • speech acts: assertions, directives (questions, commands), commissives (not included in FIPA),
  • formal semantics and verification for an agent-role programming language,
  • transformation from visual models (e.g. Message Sequences Diagrams, adequately enriched with intentional components) to visual computational models (e.g. Petri Nets), and then in agent-role scripts,
  • development of an engine executing several concurrent agent-role scripts (e.g. to be run on a server),
  • development of an engine executing a defined scenario (e.g. to be run on a web-based client),
  • conception and development of user interface for an IDE tailored on agent and scenario modeling.

CONTACT PERSON(S)

Alexander Boer, a.w.f.boer@uva.nl, Leibniz Center for Law
Giovanni Sileno, g.sileno@uva.nl, Leibniz Center for Law

RELEVANT LITERATURE

  • Sileno, G., Boer, A., & van Engers, T. (2014). From Inter-Agent to Intra-Agent Representations: Mapping Social Scenarios to Agent-Role Descriptions. In Proceedings 6th International Conference on Agents and Artificial Intelligence (ICAART 2014).
  • Boer, A., & Engers, T. (2013). Agile: a problem-based model of regulatory policy making. Artificial Intelligence and Law, 21(4), 399–423.
  • D. Harel and R. Marelly. Specifying and executing behavioral requirements: The play-in/play-out approach. Software and Systems Modeling, 82–107, 2003.
  • Cohen, P. R., & Levesque, H. J. (1990). Intention is choice with commitment. Artificial Intelligence, 42(2-3), 213–261.
  • Rao, A. S. (1996). AgentSpeak (L): BDI agents speak out in a logical computable language. In Proc. of 7th European Workshop on Modelling Autonomous Agents in a Multi-Agent World.
  • Diaz, Á. F., Earle, C. B., & Fredlund, L. (2012). eJason: an implementation of Jason in Erlang. Tenth International Workshop on Programming Multi-Agent Systems – PROMAS 2012.
  • Harel, D., & Rumpe, B. (2000). Modeling Languages: Syntax, Semantics and All That Stuff, 1–28.
  • Best, E., Devillers, R., & Koutny, M. (1998). Petri nets, process algebras and concurrent programming languages. Lectures on Petri Nets II: Applications.


Theses proposals