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Old Dominion University to Receive $1.62 Million Grant From Department of Homeland Security to Explore R&D System Governance

A group of engineering researchers at Old Dominion University have received a $1.62 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) to assist public sector enterprises in exploring research and development (R&D) system governance.

The ODU researchers, from the Batten College of Engineering and Technology's Engineering Management and Systems Engineering department, (EMSE) and the University's National Centers for Systems of Systems Engineering (NCSOSE), hope the grant, administered by the DHS S&T Borders and Maritime Division, will develop new theories, techniques, and technologies for R&D system governance.

Assistant Professor Patrick Hester is the principal investigator for the project. He will be joined by Chuck Keating, a professor of EMSE and NCSOSE Director, Tom Meyers, a Research Scientist at NCSOSE, and Nido Calida, a Graduate Research Assistant in EMSE.

Hester said the R&D efforts for DHS S&T are primarily directed externally to innovate for enhanced mission performance across the DHS enterprise. In contrast, this research is focused inward, to assist the R&D enterprise professionals responsible for setting direction, accountability, and oversight for research and development efforts. Hester emphasized that this research will enhance the science and technologies to aid R&D practitioners in the DHS S&T Borders and Maritime enterprise. In effect, the research will be "self-reflexive" in that it will be produced, as well as consumed, within the R&D enterprise.

"The R&D professionals in DHS have an incredibly difficult job." Hester said. "Ultimately, our effort is research about and for DHS S&T professionals tasked with decision and policy execution in support of research and development for DHS. The key is to provide these professionals with science-based approaches and technologies that will help them perform very important and difficult responsibilities."

A preliminary analysis done for the DHS during the summer of 2009 looked at research being performed across the DHS S&T R&D spectrum. This effort produced a prototype demonstration tool that showed how R&D professionals could explore relationships between different research initiatives. The effort successfully demonstrated the potential for further investigation of research and development capabilities for R&D professionals.

Hester noted that "it's important that ODU isn't trying to replace the decision makers, but to give these individuals tools to aid in their decision responsibilities. For example, R&D system governance could offer technologies to assist in the analysis of research initiatives."

The ODU team is utilizing several key disciplines in conducting the analysis, including systems theory, which looks at the interrelationship among the components in an evolving complex system. The focus of the research is on governance, where the concern is longer term, and the vision is of a larger scope, when compared with a traditional managerial function.

Using an analogy, Hester likened governance to the operation of a train. Management concerns itself with what can be seen on the tracks in the immediate path ahead, while governance is interested in the global direction in which the train is headed.

This article was posted on: August 16, 2010

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