Systems of Systems Research - getting the best out of multidisciplinary teams
Michael Henshaw
Loghborough University / UK


Research into practical systems of systems inevitably requires a team with collective skills across the socio-technical disciplines. Interoperability between component systems must be considered at several levels (e.g. mechanical, network, semantic, organisational) and the task of the research team is to find ways to enable good emergent behaviours and suppress bad emergent behaviours. Frequently the complex nature of the systems of systems problem space means that a variety of different methodologies must somehow be combined in a pragmatic way in order to make progress. Network Enabled Capability (NEC) is a military concept for improving capability through better use of information; it is also applicable to civilian operations, such as disaster response and homeland security. NEC exemplifies many of the challenges faced by other domains in which better understanding of systems of systems is required to improve the performance, cost, time, and/or risk associated with the management of complex large systems. The presentation will describe a £4M research programme conducted by ten UK universities in collaboration with industry to develop and enhance the systems engineering techniques applicable to NEC. A particular challenge faced by the team was the integration of many diverse research elements within a coherent demonstration. A matryoshka-style scenario of nested vignettes was used to address the lifecycle and evolutionary nature of systems development in support of NEC; this approach will be described and its relevance to acquisition decisions will be highlighted. It had a particular value associated with aiding individual researchers to better understand the integration of their own research within the larger area of study; this approach is now being developed as a support to other systems of systems research programmes as an enabler of integration within multidisciplinary research teams.

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