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Daniel Le Berre, CNRS 2018 Innovation Medalist

October 10, 2018


Paris, Wednesday October 10, 2018  - Today, Daniel Le Berre, a researcher and academic teacher at the Université d’Artois-Lens Computer Science Research lab (CRIL), is awarded by the CNRS — the French national centre in scientific research — for his outstanding work in large-scale SAT technologies. 

SAT4J is an OW2 mature project offering a library of SAT solvers with reasoning tools in Boolean variables for Java. The software was downloaded 200,000 times since January 2006, ranking 15th among the OW2’s most downloaded projects. Moreover, it has been integrated in the Eclipse platform ten years ago to manage plugin dependencies. 

    

Who better than Daniel Le Berre to recall the genesis of SAT4J since 15 years, and place it in the context of the current AI (artificial intelligence) revolution? 

Read Daniel Le Berre's speech delivered during the CNRS Innovation Medal ceremony, and appreciate the influence of collaborative open source software production within the OW2 community.  

Address by Daniel Le Berre

"Madame Minister,
Mr President Director General,
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,
Dear colleagues,

I am being honoured today for the development of the Sat4j software and its integration into the Eclipse platform. First and foremost a team effort, this provides me the opportunity to mention and extend my thanks to all those without whose efforts this work would not have seen the light of day. It is with them I share this medal. 

The SAT4J Genesis

I would like to begin by mentioning Pascal Rapicault. 11 years ago while employed by IBM Rationale, he worked on Eclipse’s dependencies management module p2. It was Pascal who convinced the Eclipse Foundation to use Sat4j to solve the problem of managing dependencies in p2, which resulted in its large-scale deployment. Sat4j was and still is developed with several of my colleagues — Anne Parrain, Emmanuel Lonca, Stéphanie Roussel and Romain Wallon. The theoretic results of managing dependencies in Linux have been the outcome of two European projects led by Roberto Di Cosmo. Furthermore, since 2005, Sat4j has benefited for its open source development and promotion from the infrastructure of the ObjectWeb/OW2 led by Cedric Thomas.

I would also like to call attention to the role of Artois University — a local and multidisciplinary university in the Hauts de France region — where I have been both teacher and researcher for the past 17 years. I thank the university’s president Pasquale Mammone for being with us this evening. This medal is yet further proof that smaller universities can compete with the best, particularly in research and innovation.

My research owes much to the Lens Computer Science Research Lab (CRIL) founded by Eric Grégoire in 1994. CRIL now has some 31 teacher-researchers all sharing a common focus—symbolic artificial intelligence. When I joined the laboratory in 2001, I began working on less academic aspects of research, such as the organisation of software competitions.

Artificial Intelligence and Open Source Opportunities

This medal highlights an aspect of artificial intelligence that in the past 15 years has undergone a real revolution: the SAT problem. Many industry, and even everyday life situations can be expressed as SAT problems. These problems were extremely tough to resolve until 2001 and the advent of a software capable of solving large-scale SAT problems, which led to the opening of new avenues of research and the adopting of the technology by large corporations (IBM, Intel and Microsoft, to name but a few) and companies specialised in processor and program verification. And, without you knowing, your computers, telephones and tablets also benefit from this revolution. This was made possible because, over many years, researchers have examined the problem from a practical perspective and have produced and shared open source software in this niche area.

Also honoured today is free software, a world I discovered 25 years ago while studying for a degree in computer studies in Brest. I have not left it since. I observe it, I study it and I make my contribution to it in a variety of ways while training my students to achieve optimum results in the field. Whereas 15 years ago I had a highly idealist vision, the experience of integrating Sat4j into Eclipse showed me the importance of working collaboratively—with businesses, academics, individuals and open source organisations. If Sat4j hadn’t been integrated into Objectweb’s ecosystem, it most likely would never have been integrated into Eclipse.

At a time when our lives are destined for ever-increasing interactions with automated processes, I believe it is important that these processes be traceable, explainable and hence available in source code to enable citizens—those who wish to and are capable—to learn about and even improve them, and suggest alternatives. I take this opportunity to applaud Madame Minister’s decision to disseminate the source code of this year’s appeal procedure for the university and college admission platform. I am one of the citizens who have read it as it is of both personal and professional interest. 

I ask you to allow me to end with a thought for my father, whose birthday it is today."

Daniel Le Berre

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