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What is Traceability?

Software traceability is "the ability to interrelate any uniquely identifiable software engineering artifact to any other, maintain required links over time, and use the resulting network to answer questions of both the software product and its development process."

Traceability is a required component of the approval and certification process in most safety-critical systems. For example, the DO-178C standard, which the USA Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has established as the means of certifying that software aspects of airborne systems comply with airworthiness requirements, specifies a very detailed set of traceability requirements including the need to provide traceability between source code and low-level requirements" in order to enable verification of the absence of undocumented source code and verification of the complete implementation of the low-level requirements." Similarly, the USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that traceability analysis must be used to verify that the software design implements the specified software requirements, that all aspects of the design are traceable to software requirements, and that all code is linked to established specifications and test procedures.

Traceability involves four primary activities of strategic planning, link creation, link maintenance, and link usage.

What are the Major Research Challenges?


Over the past few years, the traceability community has developed a series of road maps. The first major roadmap paper focuses on the underlying goals of traceability and lays out our Quest for Ubiquity. In addition to defining goals it explores some of the research steps and industrial practices needed to achieve those goals.

More recently, we have released a Future of Software Engineering paper at ICSE 2014. This FOSE paper documents Research Directions, exploring traceability from the three different perspectives of process, project environment, as well as goals.

How can I contribute?

If you are a traceability researcher, we invite you to document how you have contributed towards addressing any of the individual research directions. Follow the link to the Research Directions -- then click through to the individual RD links. Please tell us about your work, add references to your papers, and also links to videos, tutorials. This is your opportunity to showcase your work.

CoEST has created a glossary of traceability terms.



Quest for Ubiquity

Mistakes People Make


Research Directions






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