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NPS’ SEED Center Hosts International Data Farming Workshop

Article By: MC1(SW/AW) Grant P. Ammon

Working groups huddle together to scrutinize data points during the Naval Postgraduate School’s Simulation, Experiments and Efficient Design (SEED) Center for Data Farming’s International Data Farming Workshop 22. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 (SW/AW) Grant P. Ammon / Released.)
 

Naval Postgraduate School’s Simulation, Experiments and Efficient Design (SEED) Center for Data Farming hosted the International Data Farming Workshop 22 (IDFW) at the Monterey Hyatt Regency Hotel, Mar. 20-25. This installment of the biannual workshop brought together a diverse group of U.S. and international military officers and security focused civilians, representing 10 nations, to concentrate on the benefits data farming has on defense and complex security issues around the globe.

Data farming, the process of using simulations and computer modeling to grow data, leverages high-power computing, state-of-the-art experiment designs and innovative analysis techniques to gain deeper insights from simulation models, and ultimately seeks to provide decision makers insights into complex issues.

“We’re using enabling technologies such as high-power computing and innovative experiment designs to efficiently extract as much useable data from current models and simulations as possible,” said Dr. Tom Lucas, co-director of the SEED Center. “Ultimately, we’re looking to apply this approach to a whole host of international defense and security issues.”

By using high-powered cluster computers, data farmers are able to generate and analyze large volumes of data quickly and efficiently. The simulations allow for the generation of scenarios that represent vast spaces of possibilities and variables. Data is collected or farmed from these complex scenarios that would be costly or impossible to study in a live experiment.

“Real-world military or security related experiments are often very costly and dangerous,” noted Lucas. “With data farming we can closely study and identify trends or outcomes that would otherwise be impossible to do. Something like the results from nuclear fallout, for example, can be studied in a virtual world.”

Participants at IDFW broke into several working groups during the week to farm data, build scenarios and analyze a variety of issues ranging from resourcing decisions and border security to force protection, total life cycle management and health analytics. Due to the diversity of participants, workshop attendees were given the unique opportunity to examine the scenarios presented with associates that bring varied experiences across several spectra.

“During the workshops each team had a diverse group of attendees working together on the scenarios presented,” said Dr. Susan Sanchez, co-director of the SEED Center. “International teams of military operators, subject matter experts, software developers, modelers, statisticians and analysts were able to collaborate and explore a breadth of global security issues.”

New to the IDFW was NATO’s Modeling and Simulation Task Group 088 (MSG-088). MSG-088 participated in IDFW with two exploratory case study teams focusing on Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief (HA/DR) and Force Protection of an Afghan Combat Outpost. MSG-088’s overall mission was to conduct proof-of-concept experiments that would demonstrate the benefits data farming could have on improved decision tools in support of NATO forces.

“The whole goal of these case studies is to provide a proof of concept supporting the use of data farming in support of NATO objectives,” said IDFW participant Gudrun Wagner, a member of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company.

MSG-088 representatives are slated to present findings on data farming techniques and applications to a broader group of NATO members next year.

For Navy Lt. Jon Macaskill, an NPS operations research student, attending IDFW provided the opportunity to utilize modern technology and practices to develop insights into security related issues, as well as helped him to develop his master’s thesis.

“During the workshop we utilized modeling, high-powered computing, experiment design and data analysis to study broad security systems and practices,” said Macaskill. “I learned a lot during the workshop and it helped me to build my thesis.”

Complex computer experimentation plays vital roles in modern science, national defense and in shaping public policy, but overall goals of the SEED center focus on developing more tangible results than generated data.

“Our ultimate goal is to help decision makers at all levels to ensure that Sailors, Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen have what they need to safely and efficiently accomplish their missions,” said Sanchez.

 
Attendees at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Simulation, Experiments and Efficient Design (SEED) Center for Data Farming’s International Data Farming Workshop 22 (IDFW) pose for a group photo prior to kicking off the workshop. (U.S. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya / Released.)

The SEED Center was created to address high-dimensional aspects that are inherent in many models of real-world phenomena, and its mission is to advance the collaborative development and use of simulation experiments and efficient designs to provide decision makers with timely insights on complex systems and operations. The center has quickly become an internationally-recognized center of expertise in integrating state-of-the-art experimental designs, high-performance computing, new modeling environments, and innovative analysis techniques to gain deeper insights from simulation models.

Article posted April 8, 2011

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