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System of Systems Modeling and Decision-Making Under Uncertainty


An interdisciplinary research group, Systems and Decision Making, was set up, with 5 professors, 1 post-doctoral fellow, and 5 IGERT students. This group has been successful in conducting collaborative research to developing methods for modeling, policy design and operational management of large complex systems, or systems of systems. An important breakthrough has been in combining optimization methods, uncertainty analysis, and system modeling. Multiple resolutions have been developed for system modeling — coefficient-based static models, system dynamics models, and agent-based models. Application problems include: homeland security, emergency response, multi-sector economy decisions, multi-modal transportation systems. Two new efforts are on (1) methods for building flexibility in system design to address future uncertainties, and (2) modeling simulatenous cooperation and competition among multiple entities in a system of systems.

The research projects have also been mentored by Los Alamos National Laboratory, Boeing, U. S. Air Force, U. S. Army, and NASA. These efforts emerged and succeeded as a result of the interdisciplinary collaboration in this group.

3 Ph.D. dissertations were completed during the past year (Hester, Brown, McDonald), and a research proposal to NASA was successful (title: Uncertainty Quantification and Propagation using Variable Fidelity and Multidisciplinary Probabilistic Analyses). Hester and McDonald found tenure-track faculty positions, and Brown found a university research position.

Address Goals

The area of system of systems is newly emerging as an important frontier for research in system science and engineering. Our research in this area was not envisioned in the original IGERT project proposal, but has emerged as a result of interdisciplinary collaborations between professors and students in the disciplines of engineering, business, economics and mathematics. We have found important applications for this research in fields such as homeland security, defense, and large scale business and technological systems, and the opportunities for further work are growing rapidly. Thus the primary NSF strategic goal of Discovery is strongly served by this activity.

As mentioned above, a group of students trained in this emerging field are newly entering the workforce (three during this reporting period — Hester, Brown, McDonald), thus serving the secondary NSF strategic goal of Learning.