Form follows function: Model-driven engineering for clinical trials
Davies J., Gibbons J., Calinescu R., Crichton C., Harris S., Tsui A.
We argue that, for certain constrained domains, elaborate model transformation technologies-implemented from scratch in general-purpose programming languages-are unnecessary for model-driven engineering; instead, lightweight configuration of commercial off-the-shelf productivity tools suffices. In particular, in the CancerGrid project, we have been developing model-driven techniques for the generation of software tools to support clinical trials. A domain metamodel captures the community's best practice in trial design. A scientist authors a trial protocol, modelling their trial by instantiating the metamodel; customized software artifacts to support trial execution are generated automatically from the scientist's model. The metamodel is expressed as an XML Schema, in such a way that it can be instantiated by completing a form to generate a conformant XML document. The same process works at a second level for trial execution: among the artifacts generated from the protocol are models of the data to be collected, and the clinician conducting the trial instantiates such models in reporting observations-again by completing a form to create a conformant XML document, representing the data gathered during that observation. Simple standard form management tools are all that is needed. Our approach is applicable to a wide variety of information-modelling domains: not just clinical trials, but also electronic public sector computing, customer relationship management, document workflow, and so on. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.