Artifact evaluation for RTSS

Have you ever complained that you cannot reproduce an experiment from an RTSS paper?

Have you ever wished you could have someone else validate your work?

Have you ever tried to validate someone else’s experiment?

Artifact Evaluation (AE) is intended to help validate experimental results from the accepted publications. This is akin to the paper reviewing process, where qualified experts give feedback to the authors, and papers/artifacts are kept confidential and under control of the authors.  Authors of accepted regular papers with computational components will be invited to submit (but are not required to submit) the relevant artifact for evaluation by the artifact evaluation committee. This is designed to help with the goal of producing reproducible science.

Based on previous experience, the biggest hurdle to successful reproducibility is the setup and installation of necessary libraries and dependencies. Authors are therefore strongly encouraged to prepare a virtual machine (VM) image of their artifact and keep it accessible through an HTTP link throughout the evaluation process. As the basis of the VM image, please choose commonly used OS versions that have been tested with the virtual machine software and that evaluators are likely to be accustomed to. We encourage you to use https://www.virtualbox.org and save the VM image as an Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) file.

A submission website will be made available to authors of accepted papers. At submission time, please provide a README file with instructions on how to use the artifact to produce the results in the paper. The README file should include a link to the virtual machine image. Additionally, include a description of the OS and parameters of the image, as well as the host platform on which you prepared and tested your virtual machine image (OS, RAM, number of cores, CPU frequency). Please describe how to proceed after booting the image, including the instructions for running the artifact. Finally, be sure to include the accepted paper related to the artifact.

If you are not in a position to prepare the artifact as above, or if your artifact requires special libraries (Matlab or specific toolboxes), please contact AE chair.

Evaluation Criteria

The artifact evaluation criteria are modeled after those used for the HSCC conference repeatability evaluation (http://hscc2017.ece.illinois.edu/re.html). The submissions will be judged based on three criteria — coverage,instructions, and quality — where each criteria is assessed on the following scale:

  • significantly exceeds expectations (5),
  • exceeds expectations (4),
  • meets expectations (3),
  • falls below expectations (2),
  • missing or significantly falls below expectations (1).

In order to be judged “repeatable” an artifact must “meet expectations” (average score of 3), and must not have any missing elements (no scores of 1). Each artifact is evaluated independently according to the objective criteria. The higher scores (“exceeds” or “significantly exceeds expectations”) in the criteria should be considered aspirational goals, not requirements for acceptance.

Coverage

What fraction of the appropriate figures and tables are reproduced by the artifact? Note that some figures and tables should not be included in this calculation; for example, figures generated in a drawing program, or tables listing only parameter values. The focus is on those figures or tables in the paper containing computationally generated or processed experimental evidence to support the claims of the paper.

Note that satisfying this criterion does not require that the corresponding figures or tables be recreated in exactly the same format as appears in the paper, merely that the data underlying those figures or tables be generated in a recognizable format.

A repeatable element is one for which the computation can be rerun by following the instructions in the artifact in a suitably equipped environment. An extensible element is one for which variations of the original computation can be run by modifying elements of the code and/or data. Consequently, necessary conditions for extensibility include that the modifiable elements be identified in the instructions or documentation, and that all source code must be available and/or involve calls to commonly available and trusted software (eg: Windows, Linux, C or Python standard libraries, Matlab, etc.).

The categories for this criterion are:

  • None (missing / 1): There are no repeatable elements.
  • Some (falls below expectations / 2): There is at least one repeatable element.
  • Most (meets expectations / 3): The majority (at least half) of the elements are repeatable.
  • All repeatable or most extensible (exceeds expectations / 4): All elements are repeatable or most are repeatable and easily modified. Note that if there is only one computational element and it is repeatable, then this score should be awarded.
  • All extensible (significantly exceeds expectations / 5): All elements are repeatable and easily modified.

Instructions

This criterion is focused on the instructions which will allow another user to recreate the computational results from the paper.

  • None (missing / 1): No instructions were included in the artifact.
  • Rudimentary (falls below expectations / 2): The instructions specify a script or command to run, but little else.
  • Complete (meets expectations / 3): For every computational element that is repeatable, there is a specific instruction which explains how to repeat it. The environment under which the software was originally run is described.
  • Comprehensive (exceeds expectations / 4): For every computational element that is repeatable there is a single command which recreates that element almost exactly as it appears in the published paper (eg: file format, fonts, line styles, etc. might not be the same, but the content of the element is the same). In addition to identifying the specific environment under which the software was originally run, a broader class of environments is identified under which it could run.
  • Outstanding (significantly exceeds expectations / 5): In addition to the criteria for a comprehensive set of instructions, explanations are provided of:
    • all the major components / modules in the software,
    • important design decisions made during implementation,
    • how to modify / extend the software, and/or
    • what environments / modifications would break the software.

Quality

This criterion explores the documentation and trustworthiness of the software and its results. While a set of scripts which exactly recreate, for example, the figures from the paper certainly aid in repeatability, without well-documented code it is hard to understand how the data in that figure were processed, without well-documented data it is hard to determine whether the input is correct, and without testing it is hard to determine whether the results can be trusted.

If there are tests in the artifact which are not included in the paper, they should at least be mentioned in the instructions document. Documentation of test details can be put into the instructions document or into a separate document in the artifact.

The categories for this criterion are:

  • None (missing / 1): There is no evidence of documentation or testing.
  • Rudimentary documentation (falls below expectations / 2): The purpose of almost all files is documented (preferably within the file, but otherwise in the instructions or a separate readme file).
  • Comprehensive documentation (meets expectations / 3): The purpose of almost all files is documented. Within source code files, almost all classes, methods, attributes and variables are given lengthy clear names and/or documentation of their purpose. Within data files, the format and structure of the data is documented; for example, in comma separated value (csv) files there is a header row and/or comments explaining the contents of each column.
  • Comprehensive documentation and rudimentary testing (exceeds expectations / 4): In addition to the criteria for comprehensive documentation, there are identified test cases with known solutions which can be run to validate at least some components of the code.
  • Comprehensive documentation and testing (significantly exceeds expectations / 5): In addition to the criteria for comprehensive documentation, there are clearly identified unit tests (preferably run with a unit test framework) which exercise a significant fraction of the smaller components of the code (individual functions and classes) and system level tests which exercise a significant fraction of the full package. Unit tests are typically self-documenting, but the system level tests will require documentation of at least the source of the known solution. Note that tests are a form of documentation, so it is not really possible to have testing without documentation.

Important Dates

Artifacts for accepted papers are expected to be submitted on or before July 31 AOE, about three weeks after notification. The evaluators may give early feedback if there are any issues with the artifacts that prevent them from being run correctly. Notification of acceptance will be given by September 18, two weeks before the camera-ready deadline.

Artifact Evaluation Committee Chair

Artifact Evaluation Committee

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