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International Software Architecture PhD School (iSAPS).....
International Software Architecture PhD School (iSAPS)
Our goal was to establish a doctoral school for the field of software architecture that would provide young researchers and practicing architects from industry the opportunity to learn from the leaders in the field. Thus we planned to educate the participants in the most recent concepts, methods, language and tools, that are produced by the top research groups and industrial environments, in a highly interactive setting and with practical work on real industrial case studies. According to the feedback we received, we can claim success regarding this goal.
The 37 students worked in groups on the industrial cases studies under the supervision of a senior researcher and in collaboration with a software/system architect from industry. The outcome of each group work was a solution to the architecting problems formulated in the respective case studies by the case owners. Those solutions are the main output of the school. Secondary outputs are the knowledge and skills that the PhD students and architects acquired during the lectures, the established bridge between academia and industry, and the open research problems that were formulated and can be considered as future work for the PhD students.
Many PhD students were not aware of the complexity of either software architecture in practice, or the role of the architect. The importance of social and cognitive aspects intrinsic to software architecture design and design-decision making were also a surprise, along with the combination with empirical research: architecture as a theory to guide architecture design.
Finally, many students mentioned that the gap industry-academia was bigger than they had expected, and noted the unusually-high number of women PhD students attending.
The whole idea of a PhD school was relatively new for Lorentz and according to the participants, it was a very successful experiment. The part of the format that worked exceptionally well was the combination of lectures in the morning and case study work in the afternoon. Another point we want to keep in the future is the involvement of practicing software architects from industry, as this gave the opportunity to PhD students to get in contact with real-world problems (for some of them, this was their first time) and reflect on the relevance of their (academic) research to the practice in industry. Furthermore, at the end of each day we had a short reflective plenary session where each group presented the outcome of their work.
Finally, we had a retrospective at the end of the school where we asked the participants to express: a) positive feedback, b) points for improvement, c) “a-ha!” moments they had during the school and d) items that remained a mystery. We would recommend this retrospective format to other organisers.
During the retrospective session at the end of the school, a number of participants mentioned that they would have liked projectors in the different offices where we had break-out groups. Also some participants mentioned that they were lodging in hotels across town since there was no availability in the nearby hotels. This was sub-optimal for community building.
Paris Avgeriou Groningen, the Netherlands
Philippe Kruchten Vancouver, Canada
Patricia Lago Amsterdam, the Netherlands