Research Programmes

Cognitive models are rarely static things. In general, they develop and evolve over time in response to empirical and/or theoretical inadequacies. COGENT supports this kind of model evolution via the concept of a Research Programme (Cf. Lakatos, 1970). A research programme consists of a set of models that have been created by successive modifications of some initial model. COGENT provides a number of facilities for managing research programmes, including a display facility in which a research programme is represented graphically as a "family tree" showing all models in the research programme's development and the historical relations between them.

The Research Programme Manager

When COGENT is first invoked, it presents the user with the top-level research programme manager window. This window provides access to a variety of research programme management facilities together with access to all of COGENT's model development tools.

The research programme manager window consists of three regions. Along the top are buttons giving access to general information and configuration parameters for COGENT. Beneath these buttons are (on the left) a region displaying the list of current research programmes and (on the right) a set of buttons for the various research programme management functions.

The Options button on the top row hides a menu which allows various aspects of COGENT's behaviour to be customised. The What's New... button provides access to a list of recent COGENT modifications. Clicking on this button opens a web browser to display a page of information. The Help... button also displays a page of documentation. All COGENT windows have help buttons which provide information on the purpose and capabilities of each window. The About... button pops up a window which gives version information and credit to the various people who have had input into the development of COGENT. Finally, clicking on the Quit button terminates COGENT, after closing all relevant windows and (if necessary) saving all modified data files.

COGENT must be correctly configured in order for the What's New... and Help... buttons to find the correct data files. If the window that pops up after pressing either of these buttons is empty, check that you have copies of all help files and that these files are located in the appropriate directory. This directory can be set or checked by selecting the File locations item from the Options pulldown menu.

The research programme list on the left of the main window contains an alphabetically sorted list of all of your existing research programmes. (If you don't have any research programmes then this list will be empty.) Individual research programmes in this list can be selected by left-clicking on them. The research programme management buttons on the right generally operate on the selected research programme (the exceptions being the Create... and Extract... button). Thus, a research programme may be opened by left-clicking on the research programme's name in the research programme list and then left clicking on the Open button. (A research programme may also be opened by double clicking on its name within the research programme list.) The Create... button allows new research programmes to be created. Other buttons, Delete, Rename... and Copy..., allow the deleting, renaming and copying of research programmes respectively. Finally, the Archive and Extract... buttons allow research projects to be archived and de-archived for easy exchange with other researchers.

Three management functions (Create..., Rename..., and Copy...) cause a small dialog window to pop-up. This window prompts the user for a research programme name (the name of the research programme to be created, the new name of the selected research programme, or the name of the copy of the selected research programme, respectively). Research programmes are stored in separate directories, with their name being used as the name of the directory in which they are stored. As such, research programme names cannot contain certain characters. In particular, do not attempt to use the forward slash character ("/") in your research programme names! In addition, the create and copy functions automatically open the new research programme.

The archive functions convert complete COGENT research programmes to and from single files. The Archive button creates an archive from the selected research programme using standard UNIX utilities (gzip and tar). The created file is stored in a special archive directory (which itself is specified in the Options/File Locations panel). The created file is named after the research programme, and has a .tgz extension. Archiving can fail if:

  1. either gzip or tar are unavailable or inaccessible; or
  2. there is insufficient file space to create the archive.

If archiving is successful, the user will be asked if the original project should be deleted.

The extract facility allows archive files to be converted back into research programmes. When the Extract... button is pressed, a file chooser window appears. This window lists all .tgz files in the user's archive directory. Archives can then be extracted by selecting them from the file list and clicking on the Extract button on the file chooser window. Alternately, double clicking on an archive's filename in the file chooser window will extract the archive. Extracting can also fail if:

  1. either gzip or tar are unavailable or inaccessible; or
  2. there is insufficient file space to extract the archive.

If extracting is successful, the user will be asked if the archive should be deleted.

The History Window

COGENT displays a project's history in its top-level window as an annotated time-line. Annotations correspond to individual models within the project's history. Each model is represented as a blob (with its name or creation date). If the project consists of just a single model, then there will be just one blob. If the project comprises multiple models then a number of blobs will be shown. The time-line which connects the blobs may be linear, indicating a sequence of models that have developed cumulatively from a single ancestry, or it may branch, indicating points at which different modifications to a model have been considered. This allows, for example, a range of modifications to a single model to be explored.

The title of the window containing a research programme's family tree contains the research programme's name. The window itself is divided into two parts: a panel at the top with various buttons and text fields, and a canvas at the bottom showing the history diagram.

The history diagram canvas is sensitive to mouse clicks, and right clicking on one of the blobs selects the corresponding model and drops down a menu giving access to various model manipulation functions. The selected model may be opened (in either View... or Edit... modes) or Deleted, or a new model based on the selected model may be Created. Also, from this menu, you can Webify a model; this results in HTML files and graphics being produced for the whole model, suitable for use in WebCOGENT. Double-clicking on a model provides a shortcut to the default option (initially the Open in Edit... mode option) of this menu.

The history diagram can be displayed in two ways, depending on the setting of the Scaling check-box on the window's panel. When Scaling is checked, the horizontal access is scaled to reflect the creation time of individual models: model Y will be shown to the right of model X if and only if Y was created after X. If Scaling is unchecked, only hierarchical relations between models are shown (so if models Y and Z were both created from model X, then models Y and Z will not differ in their horizontal coordinate).

The panel at the top of the research programme window displays some general information about the research programme. Thus, there is a text field which displays a short annotation describing the research programme. This may be edited by positioning the cursor within the Comment: field (move the mouse over the field and left click) and typing as appropriate. The research programme's inception date (based on the creation date of the first model in the research programme) is also displayed.

Two types of model can be distinguished within any research programme. Root models are those developed from scratch. Non-root models are developed from root models or from other non-root models. Creation of non-root models is via the menu which appears when a model node is selected. Creation of root models requires a separate mechanism, and this is invoked via the New Root button. Clicking on this button creates a new root model and places it in the appropriate position on the canvas. The new root model can then be opened by the usual means (right-clicking on the node and then selecting Open from the menu that appears). Research programmes are generally single-rooted, in that they have one and only one root node. However, COGENT supports research programmes with multiple root nodes (via repeated use of the New Root button). Each tree of a multi-rooted research programmes is displayed as a separate series of models which may evolve in parallel.

There are three other buttons on the research programme window. The Print button allows printing of either the research programme's history and description, or the complete research programme (including details of all models). The Help... button displays a pop-up window showing context specific help for the window. The Done button closes the research programme window. The research programme window will also close if an attempt is made to open a second research programme window from the research programme manager window. Note that pressing Done will not cause COGENT itself to terminate. For this it is necessary to press the Quit button on COGENT's top-level window.

The Comment: field of the research programme window provides space for only a brief annotation. A fuller description can be given by switching the window to Programme Description mode. This is done by right clicking on the small button to the right of Mode: (at the top left of the window). A menu will appear which allows switching between Programme History mode (the default) and Programme Description mode. If Programme Description mode is selected the history diagram will be replaced by a standard text editor into which a lengthy description of the research programme can be typed. This description might include, for example, a detailed description of the research programme's history, complete with the reasons for the developments embodied in successive models. We strongly recommend that this facility be religiously used to document research programmes. Buttons along the top of editor allow you to reload the existing description from disk, clear the description window, or save the current contents to disk.

It is possible to switch between Programme History mode and Programme Description mode at any time. However, if a description is modified it must be saved before switching back to history mode or closing the window. If a modified description is not explicitly saved, COGENT will ask whether it should be saved before closing the description.

If you Edit, View, or Create a model, a new window will appear. This is the window in which you can view, draw or edit the box/arrow diagram corresponding to your particular model.