View Updatability Based on the Models of a Formal Specification

  • Michael Johnson
  • Robert Rosebrugh
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 2021)


Information system software productivity can be increased by improving the maintainability and modifiability of the software produced. This latter in turn can be achieved by the provision of comprehensive support for views, since view support allows application programs to continue to operate unchanged when the underlying information system is modified. But, supporting views depends upon a solution to the view update problem, and proposed solutions to date have only had limited, rather than comprehensive, applicability. This paper presents a new treatment of view updates for formally specified information systems. The formal specification technique we use is based on category theory and has been the basis of a number of successful major information system consultancies. We define view updates by a universal property in a subcategory of models of the formal specification, and explain why this indeed gives a comprehensive treatment of view updatability, including a solution to the view update problem. However, a definition of updatability which is based on models causes some inconvenience in applications, so we prove that in a variety of circumstances updatability is guaranteed independently of the current model. The paper is predominantly theoretical, as it develops the theoretical basis of a formal methods technique, but the methods described here are currently being used in a large consultancy for a government Department of Health. Because the application area, information systems, is rarely treated by formal methods, we include some detail about the formal methods used. In fact they are extensions of the usual category theoretic specification techniques, and the solution to the view update problem can be seen as requiring the existence of an initial model for a specification.


View update database formal specification information system category theory conceptual modelling data model 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Johnson
    • 1
  • Robert Rosebrugh
    • 2
  1. 1.Macquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Mount Allison UniversityCanada

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