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Why workflows break: understanding and combating decay in Taverna workflows

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNConference contribution/Paperpeer-review

  • Jun Zhao
  • Jose Manuel Gomez-perez
  • Khalid Belhajjame
  • Graham Klyne
  • Esteban Garcia-cuesta
  • Aleix Garrido
  • Kristina Hettne
  • Marco Roos
  • David De Roure
  • Carole Goble


Workflows provide a popular means for preserving scientific methods by explicitly encoding their process. However, some of them are subject to a decay in their ability to be re-executed or reproduce the same results over time, largely due to the volatility of the resources required for workflow executions. This paper provides an analysis of the root causes of workflow decay based on an empirical study of a collection of Taverna workflows from the myExperiment repository. Although our analysis was based on a specific type of workflow, the outcomes and methodology should be applicable to workflows from other systems, at least those whose executions also rely largely on accessing third-party resources. Based on our understanding about decay we recommend a minimal set of auxiliary resources to be preserved together with the workflows as an aggregation object and provide a software tool for end-users to create such aggregations and to assess their completeness.