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The SEMAT Initiative: A Call for Action

As you may have heard, we have been quietly planning a revolution with the goal of "re-founding" software engineering as a rigorous discipline. We recognize that the natural tendency in our field is to perturb systems minimally into approximate correctness, but this path cannot be sustained any longer if we are to support the computing industry and help it meet the demands of society. We need to restart on a solid basis, taking advantage of all that has been learned in software engineering theory and practice over the past five decades.

The initiative started with two articles published in Dr Dobb's -- Methods Need Theory and Why We Need a Theory for Software Engineering -- that analyzed and deplored the fragmentation of software engineering and, in particular, of the methodology scene.

To address this issue, to bring together the best and the brightest, we have founded a community, the Software Engineering Method and Theory (SEMAT) community. The community supports the following Call for Action.

The SEMAT Call for Action Statement

Software engineering is gravely hampered today by immature practices. Specific problems include:

  • The prevalence of fads more typical of fashion industry than of an engineering discipline.
  • The lack of a sound, widely accepted theoretical basis.
  • The huge number of methods and method variants, with differences little understood and artificially magnified.
  • The lack of credible experimental evaluation and validation.
  • The split between industry practice and academic research.

We support a process to re-found software engineering based on a solid theory, proven principles, and best practices that:

  • Includes a kernel of widely-agreed elements, extensible for specific uses.
  • Addresses both technology and people issues.
  • Is supported by industry, academia, researchers and users.
  • Supports extension in the face of changing requirements and technology.


The following people have signed the Call for Action statement. This list is dynamic; the up-to-date list is on the SEMAT web site.

  • Pekka Abrahamsson
  • Scott Ambler
  • Victor Basili
  • Jean Bzivin
  • Dines Bjorner
  • Barry Boehm
  • Alan W. Brown
  • Alistair Cockburn
  • Larry Constantine
  • Bill Curtis
  • Donald Firesmith
  • Erich Gamma
  • Tom Gilb
  • Ellen Gottesdiener
  • Sam Guckenheimer
  • David Harel
  • Brian Henderson-Sellers
  • Watts Humphrey
  • Capers Jones
  • Martin Griss
  • Ivar Jacobson
  • Philippe Kruchten
  • Robert Martin
  • Stephen Mellor
  • Bertrand Meyer
  • James Odell
  • Meilir Page-Jones
  • Ken Schwaber
  • Alec Sharp
  • Richard Soley

All signatories are world-class experts who have individually made significant contributions to the software engineering discipline and of the development of today's best practices. They are distributed around the world; their collective expertise extends across computer science and software engineering, covering advanced programming techniques, modeling languages, Agile as well as traditional software processes, a wide spectrum of practices (human, technical, business models, user interaction), tools, frameworks, and many more areas. Together we represent a large part of the software development community.

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