Research Interests

Cyber-physical systems (CPSs) development, testing, and evolution

Much of the increasing complexity of ICT systems is being driven by the more distributed and heterogeneous nature of these systems, with Cyber-Physical Systems accounting for an increasing portion of Software Ecosystems. This basic premise underpins the research conducted by Dr. Panichella in the COSMOS H2020, ARIES Innosuisse, and the SwarmOps SNSF projects, which focus on blending best practices DevOps solutions with the development processes used in the CPS context: this will enable the CPS world to deliver software more rapidly and result in more secure and trustworthy systems. COSMOS brings together a balanced consortium of big industry, SMEs and academics which will develop enhanced DevOps/MLOps pipelines that target the development of CPS software. The COSMOS CPS pipelines will be validated against several use cases provided by industrial partners representing the healthcare, avionics, automotive, micromobility, utility, and railway sectors. These will act as reference use cases when promoting the technology amongst Open Source and standardization communities.
More information about the COSMOS H2020 project can be found at:
More information about the ARIES Innosuisse project can be found at:
Information on some of the papers accepted on the projects: [J32,J31, J30, J29, J28, J27, J24, J23, C62, C61, C60, C59, C58, C57, C56, C55, ...].

Machine Learning and Genetic Algorithms

Machine learning (ML) and Genetic Algorithms (GA) deals with the issue of how to build computer programs that improve their performance at some tasks through experience. ML and Genetic algorithms have proven to be of great practical value in a variety of application domains. Not surprisingly, the field of software engineering turns out to be a fertile ground where many software development and maintenance tasks could be formulated as learning problems and approached in terms of learning algorithms. Work in progress. Dr. Panichella investigated (see papers accepted) the potential of using ML and Genetic Algorithms for solving SE problems. He started to study them during the PhD studies. Examples of the successful application of ML and genetic algorithms to SE problems by Panichella are bug prediction, code (and code change) prediction [J5, J8, C30,C25, C22, C7, ...], prioritization or clustering of user reviews (in the context of mobile apps) [J15, J13, C45, C38, C37, C36, C34, C29, C28, GE2, GE1, ... ] , test case generation [J12, C48, C47, C46, C41, C35, C22, ...], etc.. More recent and ongoing research directions in this topic are toward experimenting customized solutions based on ML and Genetic Algorithms for enhancing traditional testing approaches and GUI testing processes [C35, C34], identifying class comment types in multi-language projects [J21] , supporting qualitative characterization and automated prediction of issue labels in Github [J28, J20, J17, C42, .. ], monitoring vulnerability-proneness of Google Play Apps [J19] . Finally, emerging research concerned solutions for autonomous systems [J32, J31, J29, J28, J23, C62, C61, C60, C59, C58, C57, C55, ...].

Continuos Delivery and Continuos Integration

Continuous delivery (CD) is a software engineering approach in which teams produce software in short cycles, ensuring that the software can be reliably released at any time. It aims at building, testing, and releasing software faster and more frequently. The approach helps reduce the cost, time, and risk of delivering changes by allowing for more incremental updates to applications in production. A straightforward and repeatable deployment process is important for continuous delivery. Continuous Integration (CI) consists in a specific stage of CD process where team members integrate their work in an automatic manner, which allows a fast building, testing, and releasing of software, leading to multiple integrations per day. Researchers in this field have as main focus the development of recommender systems able to provide suggestions and automated support to developers and testers during Continuous Integration activities. Work in progress. Dr. Panichella is very interested (see papers accepted) in investigate and overcome contemporary limitations of DevOps (e.g., continuous delivery and continuous integration) practices and tools for complex systems (e.g., Cloud and Cyber-physical systems). In the context of CI Dr. Panichella is currently conducting empirical work to understand the problems that developers face when integrating new changes in the code base [C34, C31, ...] . The main focus is the development of recommender systems able to provide suggestions to developers and testers during Continuous Integration activities. In recent work he also investigated strategies to optimize test case generation in CI pipelines [J12, J7, ...], contemporary bad practices affecting CI adoption [J11, ...], technical debt analysis for Serverless [J16, ...] , the cloudification perspectives of search-based software testing [C41, C46, ...] , approaches to measure structural coupling for microservices [C50] , and how developers engage with static analysis tools in different development contexts (i.e., Code Review, CI, local development) [J14, ...]. On going research concerns branch coverage prediction and test case generation [J30, J7, C35, ...], improving the readability of automatically generated Tests [C47, C21, ...], test smells in automatically generated tests [C48, J25, ...], and exploring the integration of user Feedback in Automated Testing of Android Applications [C34, C35, ...]. Finally, emerging research concerned Continuos Delivery and Continuos Integration practices in cyber-physical systems [J32, J31, J29, J27, J23, C62, C61, C60, C59, C58, C57, C55, ...].

Empirical Software Engineering

Empirical software engineering is a sub-domain of software engineering focusing on experiments on software systems (software products, processes, and resources). It is interested in devising experiments on software, in collecting data from these experiments, and in devising laws and theories from this data. Proponents of experimental software engineering advocate that the nature of software is such that we can advance the knowledge on software through experiments only. The scientific method suggests a cycle of observations, laws, and theories to advance science. Empirical software engineering applies this method to software. Work in progress. In past work Dr. Panichella performed empirical studies (see papers accepted) to understand (i) how OSS communities upgrades dependencies [C10, J4, ...]; (ii) to what extent static analysis tools help developers with code reviews [, ...]; (iii) how developers' collaborations identified from different sources vary when they are mined from different sources [, ...]; (iv) how the evolution of emerging collaborations relates to code changes [C14, C11, ...]; (v) comment evolution and practices in Pharo Smalltalk [J18, ...]; or (vi) to study the behaviour of developers during maintenance tasks or pull requests development (e.g., while they modify existing features or fix a bug) by analyzing their navigation patterns [C43, C9, ...]. Currently Dr. Panichella is focusing his attention in performing empirical work to understand possible ways to measure and foster developer productivity during testing [C21, ...], maintenance and code reviewing tasks [J22, J14, C9, ...] as well as investigating how developers discuss about code comments in social media [C54, ...] or how do communities in developer interaction networks align with Subsystem Developer Teams [C51, ...]. Finally, emerging empirical research concerned practices and safety in cyber-physical systems development [J32, J31, J28, J27, J24 ...]

Mining Software Repositories & User Feedback Analysis

Software repositories such as source control systems, archived communications between project personnel, and defect tracking systems are used to help manage the progress of software projects. Software practitioners and researchers are recognizing the benefits of mining this information to support the maintenance of software systems, improve software design/reuse, and empirically validate novel ideas and techniques. Research is now proceeding to uncover the ways in which mining these repositories can help to understand software development and software evolution, to support predictions about software development, and to exploit this knowledge concretely in planning future development. The Mining Software Repositories (MSR) field analyzes the rich data available in software repositories to uncover interesting and actionable information about software systems and projects. Work in progress. In past work Panichella focused (see papers accepted) his attention in mining software repository to build recommender systems for supporting developers during maintenance and program comprehension tasks. For instance, he conceived tools for (i) enabling the automatic re-documentation of existing systems and (ii) summarization of software artifacts [J10, C38, C29, C23, C21, C12, C5 ...]; (iii) or profiling developers or experts in OSS projects [C51, C14 ...]. Recently Dr. Panichella focused his attention in designing and developing tools to help developers digest the huge amount of feedback they receive from users on a daily basis, transforming user reviews into maintenance tasks (fixing issues or building features) [J15, J13, C45, GE2, GE1, C38, C37, C36, C34, C32, C29, C28, C26, C24, C23, C17, ...]; tools for multi-source analysis based on unstructured data [C49, ...]. More in general, Dr. Panichella is interested to conceive tools to support developers in evolving modern software applications [J27, J24 ...].

(Modern) Code Review

Peer code review, a manual inspection of source code by developers other than the author, is recognized as a valuable tool for reducing software defects and improving the quality of software projects. In 1976, Fagan formalized a highly structured process for code reviewing, based on line-by-line group reviews, done in extended meetings--code inspections. Over the years, researchers provided evidence on code inspection benefits, especially in terms of defect finding, but the cumbersome, time-consuming, and synchronous nature of this approach hinders its universal adoption in practice. Nowadays, many organizations are adopting more lightweight code review practices to limit the inefficiencies of inspections. In particular, there is a clear trend toward the usage of tools specifically developed to support code review. Modern code reviews are (1) informal (in contrast to Fagan-style), (2) tool-based, and (3) occurs regularly in practice nowadays, for example at companies such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and in other companies and OSS projects. Work in progress. The research focus of Panichella is to develop recommender systems (see papers accepted) able to (better) support developers during the code review process. Hence recent effort was devoted in automatically configure static analysis tools during code review activities as well as investigation the relevant changes and automation needs of developers in modern code review [J22, J14, C15...].

Textual analysis in SE

Textual analysis can be described as the examination of a text in which an educated guess is formed as to the most likely interpretations that might be made of that text. It is where the researcher must decentre the text to reconstruct it, working back through the narrative mediations of form, appearance, rhetoric, and style to uncover the underlying social and historical processes, the metalanguage that guided the production. It is suggested that textual analysis can cover four main underlying constructs: language and meaning, ideology, ideology and myth, and historicity. In this sense, textual analysis is a methodology: a way of gathering and analysing information in academic research (Mckee, A 2001). Work in progress.Panichella studied text analysis approaches since his bachelor and master studies and was always fascinated by the great usability of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Information Retrieval (IR) tools and techniques for solving several practical problems. He adopted such techniques in several work during his PhD and also during the postdoctoral experience. He is currently learning new techniques and tools based on Textual Analysis (e.g. WORD2VEC) and neural networks techniques. He also proposed an NLP-based tools for software artifacts analysis to explore the natural language structures in software informal documentation or to detect inconsistencies between documentation and code. Moreover, he created the first international Workshop on Natural Language-Based Software Engineering Workshop (NLBSE), which was/is collocated with ICSE 2022, ICSE 2023, ICSE 2024. to know more about NLBSE, see the web page of the event in 2024:

IR-based Traceability Recovery

Traceability has been defined as "the ability to describe and follow the life of an artefact (requirements, code, tests, models, reports, plans, etc.), in both a forwards and backwards direction". Thus, traceability links help software engineers to understand the relationships and dependencies among various software artefacts (requirements, code, tests, models, etc.) developed during the software lifecycle. The two main research topics related to the traceability management are event-based systems for traceability management and information retrieval based methods and tools supporting the software engineer in the traceability link recovery.

Tools for maintenance, development, and testing of

- Monolithic and Cloud Applications
- Cyber-physical systems (drones, robots and self-driving cars)

Mobile and Automated Testing

Maintenance, development and testing of Cloud Application & Cloud-based Testing