System of Systems Engineering Problems: SoS as Science? SoS as Fundable?
California State Polytechnic University
Last modified: September 6, 2007
This presentation will report on a Colloquium of a dozen national-level engineers and scientists held July 16-17 in Chicago on “Exploring the State of the Art of System of Systems (SoS) Science, Applications, and Vital Issues” funded by the National Science Foundation and organized by Sandia National Labs. It will also outline the findings of the White Paper requested by the NSF to inform the question, “Should a new funding program for SoS be initiated?”
SoS problems are characterized as very large, very messy, very complex societal problems (such as pandemics, cancer, or global warming) with major natural science, social science, and engineering components. The diversity of tools and principles governing these diverse components make solving SoS problems very difficult, but their size and central importance to national and international health and welfare are compelling. Many of the questions discussed during the Colloquium are of interest to the wider complex systems community. For example …
• Is there really an area of SoS?
• Is there a science of SoS?
• What are (should be) the foundations of the Knowledge Base?
• What are noteworthy examples of SoS? What can be learned from them?
• Is there a need to manage (can one manage) these SoS projects?
• What is needed to help improve our ability to manage SoS?
• How and when should SoS be taught and learned? Past lessons?
• What is the relationship between SoS and other disciplines?
• Can we apply existing engineering principles to SoS?
• What would NSF or other agencies fund? What other agencies? And more
Some of the answers developed to these questions were quite surprising and unexpected. One of the outcomes was the identification of unexpected new funding sources for SoS research and application on both the theoretical and practical levels.
This presentation will begin with an overview of the relationship between the SoS of the military and engineering communities and the conventional natural sciences and the complex systems sciences. It will continue with evidence showing how many reductionist-organized natural sciences are actually also SoS studies. The NSF report’s tentative answers to the above dozen questions will be included. The talk will end with the outline of a System of Systems Processes (SoSP) Model that illustrates one way to accomplish the integration needed for progress on SoS problems and methodology. ICCS participants will be asked and enabled to provide information for follow-up feedback to NSF.