Formal Foundations for Hierarchical Safety Cases (English)

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Safety cases are increasingly being required in many safety-critical domains to assure, using structured argumentation and evidence, that a system is acceptably safe. However, comprehensive system-wide safety arguments present appreciable challenges to develop, understand, evaluate, and manage, partly due to the volume of information that they aggregate, such as the results of hazard analysis, requirements analysis, testing, formal verification, and other engineering activities. Previously, we have proposed hierarchical safety cases, hicases, to aid the comprehension of safety case argument structures. In this paper, we build on a formal notion of safety case to formalise the use of hierarchy as a structuring technique, and show that hicases satisfy several desirable properties. Our aim is to provide a formal, theoretical foundation for safety cases. In particular, we believe that tools for high assurance systems should be granted similar assurance to the systems to which they are applied. To this end, we formally specify and prove the correctness of key operations for constructing and managing hicases, which gives the specification for implementing hicases in AdvoCATE, our toolset for safety case automation. We motivate and explain the theory with the help of a simple running example, extracted from a real safety case and developed using AdvoCATE.