NSF Workshop on Data-Centric Workflows
Arlington, Virginia
May 11-12, 2009                                                                                             Supported by NSF Grant IIS-0842993

Supported by the National Science Foundation
(NSF Grant No: IIS-0842993)

Workshop Report

Workshop Organizers

Richard Hull (IBM TJ Watson Research Center)
Jianwen Su (U C Santa Barbara)

The area of workflow and business process management is undergoing a significant transformation, because of a shift from process-centric to data-centric workflow design and specification. This shift is occurring along two broad dimensions. First, conceptual models for data-aware workflow are emerging in the business process management arena, and also arise more implicitly in healthcare delivery and digital government. These models elevate the data being manipulated by the workflows to a level of prominence essentially equivalent to the level given to process flow in conventional models. It appears that these models permit a unification of the conceptual models for workflow requirements, policies, activity flows, data management, and monitoring, which have hitherto been rather disparate. Second, the area of workflow as data has been growing in recent years, primarily through the lens of scientific workflow, and also in recent research aimed at business application. A key focus here is to be able to easily represent, store, and query both workflow schemas and "runs" or enactments of those schemas. This is useful for understanding the provenance or history of how data is produced or updated, for discovering and re-using workflow schemas, and for monitoring compliance of workflows with government or other regulations and policies. Extending and adapting techniques from scientific workflow to other application areas, especially healthcare delivery, appears to be an especially fertile area for exploration. While research advances have been made along both of these broad dimensions, and the value for practical application has been emerging, we are far from realizing the full potential of these fundamentally new ways of understanding workflow.

The workshop will bring together leading researchers and practitioners in the area, to articulate key research questions and directions that should be explored in order to maximize and hasten the realization of the practical and economic value of data-centric approaches to workflow. Emphasis will be placed on research questions that can lead to new advances in workflow management applicable to business process management, healthcare delivery, digital government, and scientific workflow. The results of the workshop will be summarized in a report that articulates (i) the fundamental reasons why data-centric approaches can provide significant increases in the flexibility, efficacy, and utility of workflow-based technologies, (ii) key research directions that need to be pursued to maximize the potential benefits, and (iii) ways to realize the benefits of these approaches in the targeted application areas.

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