July 6, 2012
I found the three days (June 18-20th) of CESUN 2012 at the Technical University of Delft very engaging both intellectually as well as professionally. The spectrum of inter-disciplinary topics was rich, and there was a good blend of both basic fundamental research as well as applied work that was highlighted through keynotes and in parallel running sessions.
The speakers (through their presentations) and other participants (through informal discussions) collectively served up a broad array of interesting research problems and important current engineering systems issues. I found the international nature and flavor of the conference particularly appealing. In addition to several US universities, the representation from Keio University (Japan), National University of Singapore (Singapore), University of Cambridge (England), Masdar Institute (UAE) and of course from TU Delft (Netherlands) allowed for great opportunity to learn about region-specific research and technology & policy issues.
CESUN 2012 show cased some excellent on-going research and application of engineering systems approaches to real-world problems. Some presentations that I found particularly interesting and informative (based on the sub-set of presentations I was able to attend in the parallel sessions) included: “Analogies between Complex Systems and phases of Matter” by Joel Moses and David Broniatowski, “Backcasting for sustainability in engineering systems: how to move towards value sensitive design?” by Jaco Quist, and key note presentations on wind power by Andrew Garrard and smart cities by Katharine Frase of IBM.
The presence of like-minded academics from universities, management leaders from industry, and national policy makers was a healthy sign that this community of inter-disciplinary research and practice of engineering, management and policy is coming of age. In looking ahead, perhaps the next frontier that should now be actively explored, for future CESUN symposiums, is to how to further expand this community and enhance its role in engineering education and research. Educating those who are unaware of this inter-disciplinary field of research, as well as broader out-reach efforts should be part of future agendas. — Afreen Siddiqi, Research Scientist, ESD
As a second year ESD PhD student, I found CESUN 2012 to be an interesting and useful introduction to part of the ES international community. CESUN offered a firsthand look at ES work at other research centers, with their unique emphasis, views, and approaches. Some particularly engaging sessions focused on interaction and allowed students the opportunity to discuss session topics with professors and speakers. Examples of interest included the session on scarce resources, the technology policy sessions, and a panel of professors and smart meter consultants on privacy and security issues associated with Netherland’s smart grid.
The Doctoral Consortium offered the opportunity to share graduate level research in Technology Policy Management. There were multiple presentations in my area of interest—energy and environment—showcasing studies through electricity modeling, agent-based modeling, evolutionary modeling, qualitative approaches, and more traditional engineering analysis. Overall, the connections and interactions held at the conference will, I imagine, offer useful perspectives and resources for my future efforts. — Rebecca Saari, PhD Candidate, Engineering Systems
Being at CESUN 2012 was a truly invigorating experience for me. I have been asking myself why the TPM program at TU Delft is so vigorous and it dawned on me that the Dutch have been systems thinkers and have developed a deep understanding of the need for critical infrastructures for over 2,000 years. They have claimed their land and defended their territory against the North Sea for many years building dikes, bridges, canals and the mighty harbor of Rotterdam. One of the presentations that impressed me the most was by the head of the Dutch Meteorological Organization (KNMI) on the 3rd day. The average 2 mm/year sea level rise has led to building defenses and a long term optic with a 100+ year time horizon. I wish that we in the United States would also take these issues more seriously and realize that large scale investments in infrastructures benefit society as a whole and require a holistic Engineering Systems approach including the development of new (both breakthrough and evolutionary) technologies, innovative system architectures, social incentive systems and alignment of institutions at the national and international level. — Olivier de Weck, Professor, Engineering Systems
Attending the CESUN 2012 symposium at TU Delft was a great honor and exciting intellectual experience because many of the world's leading thinkers in Engineering Systems and Technology, Policy and Management had gathered to further the discourse on the future of these two fields of scholarship. Since CESUN symposia occur once every three years, most PhD students are typically able to attend only one during their PhD career, making it a valuable opportunity for building relationships. I enjoyed strengthening ties with the vibrant community of faculty, researchers and students associated with these fields. They will undoubtedly continue to be respected colleagues and cherished friends.
I benefited greatly from a particular panel session on risk management in large infrastructure projects led by Prof. Hugo Priemus. It reminded me not only of the sophistication with which the Dutch approach the infrastructure sector leading them to many successes, but the session also helped me to identify certain opportunities for further investigation on this topic. — Vivek Sakhrani, PhD Candidate, Engineering Systems
The third Engineering Systems Symposium was my first interaction with the CESUN community, and ended up being one of the most valuable conferences I've attended to date. In addition to interesting discussion with researchers in similar programs around the world and a terrific PhD student social program, TU Delft demonstrated a wealth of experience in using interactive simulations and games for research in complex systems. My research seeks to explore this methodology in more depth as a relatively novel approach at MIT. My highlight of the conference was the "Game Design for Complex Systems" discussion on Wednesday morning and afternoon. During this session, presenters shared their experiences (and challenges) in applying gaming methods to systems research ranging from asset management to aerospace system operations. Faculty from TU Delft chaired the session, guiding discussion and sharing their experiences and demos in the "Gaming Carousel" during breaks. The most interesting observation was the wide variety of games developed, both in format (board/card games, 3D computer games, table-top games with sponges as trains), and in objective (teaching a concept, training a skill, serving as an intervention to produce better decisions, and as a synthetic environment
I'm looking forward to growing the connections created at CESUN to support my research in the coming years and provide a more unified community of researchers applying simulation and gaming methodologies to engineering systems. — Paul Grogan, PhD Student, Engineering Systems
The 2012 CESUN Symposium at TU Delft was a highly energizing opportunity to present and get critical feedback on one's research from an enthusiastic group of like-minded scholars from around the world. Several categories of thoughts congealed as I reflected on what I took away from participating in the symposium: identity solidification/community building within the field of Engineering Systems, some specific research ideas related to my domain of extended enterprises, and challenges present in mixed-methodology research approaches.
The issues of identity formation and community building broader for the growing Engineering Systems cadre of scholars was a recurrent theme I observed at the symposium. Specifically, the issue of crystalizing what Engineering Systems is and what it is not ran through the three days of the "Technology Management and Policy" research sessions run by Professors de Neufville, Selin, and Trancik. In these sessions, the attendees represented a fertile mixture of perspectives: across domains, across geographies, and across career stages (e.g., PhD student, new faculty, mid-career faculty, and senior faculty). The breadth of the thinking/experience of the senior faculty mixed creatively with the fresh perspectives and viewpoints of new faculty struggling to make their way (and their mark) in the academic world.
As scholars in Engineering Systems we know that we are dealing with some of the grand challenges of our time, but how do we create an identity which helps ES scholars self-identify and other groups understand who we are and how we fit into the overall "intellectual value chain"? In the process of grappling with the self-definition of Engineering Systems some scholars at the symposium focused on looking toward intellectual history, some focused on broad analogies to other fields of study (including the natural sciences), and some focused on how ES domains and methodologies integrate with and compliment other more established academic disciplines.
The CESUN Symposium's PhD Colloquium was a unique opportunity to meet PhD researchers from across the US and Europe who are working on similar problems. Both the PhD colloquium and the main symposium sessions gave an opportunity for understanding and sharing best practices in research and education across a number of universities including: TU Delft, NUS, MIT, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon, and Purdue. The symposium even helped me network with recent MIT ESD PhD grads doing intriguing and/or similar research with which I had not been previously very familiar.
The symposium also highlighted the diversity of domains represented within the Engineering Systems umbrella. In particular, the keynote addresses did a fantastic job of highlighting the broad range of domains. I found the keynotes on wind energy, IT-enhanced decision support for cities of the future (by IBM executive, Katharine Frase), and revamping engineering education (by David Goldberg or ThreeJoy Associates) to be particularly engaging. It was also particularly interesting to observe up-close how another university (TU Delft) fit the domain of extended enterprises into its overall Engineering Systems research effort. Specifically, I found interesting nuggets applicable to my own research in the presentations: "Policy and Concentration of Activities: The Case of Dutch Nanotechnology" by Scott Cunningham and "Cost-reduction as a major driver in traditional technology use. Can outsourcing be replaced by smart manufacturing?" by Sergey Filipov. These addressed how high-technology and manufacturing industries are being strategically analyzed and governed by European academics, companies, and policymakers.
Regarding research methodologies, I enjoyed an in depth discussion (within the PhD Colloquium) of the similarities and differences between using game theory and "gaming" to address Engineering Systems challenges. In the symposium proper, there were also philosophical discussions of the merits of qualitative vs. quantitative methods and adopting a plurality of methods (really a multi-modal approach) in order to stay true to the domain problems under study. These discussions naturally overlapped with the earlier theme outlined regarding the definition/delineation of the field of Engineering Systems. — Tom Heaps-Nelson, PhD Student, Engineering Systems