Showing posts from October, 2015

An organization from LEGO bricks

As children, we built things out of LEGO bricks to show our creativity and express our imagination. LEGO bricks are different sizes and colors, but they are all able to connect to another. Considered alone, they are relatively simple, but together, they contribute to something larger and much more impressive—a manifestation of an idea that is now tangible. And they can be rearranged into a new creation with a different appearance or purpose. The individual LEGO bricks do not change, but the concept does. Take the average organizational flowchart and consider how it might look assembled from LEGO bricks. Suppose each LEGO brick represents a distinct team or function within the organization. The amount of direct contact that team or function has with other parts of the organization necessitates the relative size of the brick (so that other bricks can connect to it). Hopefully, the smaller bricks are near the foundation, and the larger bricks are near the top. In this analogy, if more tha

Keeping research code accessible and relevant

It is an all too common occurrence these days. Code that someone wrote years ago stops working and results in a cascading set of downstream failures, or, possibly worse, old data ends up downstream and no one immediately notices. I remember this happening to a colleague who maintains a numerical weather prediction model for research purposes. As spring wore on, it seemed that the overnight low temperatures were consistently too cool over the northern United States. Then it became June and model-forecasted lows were still tumbling into the 30s every night. It was only then that he dug into the code and realized the problem: the snow cover analysis was from the middle of winter. Oops. He tracked down the offending lines of code that did not properly check the date of the analysis and then remarked how the old Fortran code provided great “job security” because it had become so complex and unwieldy to maintain that it would take someone else eons to detect and fix issues. That may be so, b

The R2O triangle of triangles

There have been many attempts to develop a single framework for streamlining R2O transition activities that is capable of handling the wide range of projects. While some have short-lived success, eventually these frameworks encounter difficulty meeting the diverse time, funding, maturity, scale, and scope characteristics of R2O projects. One idea to better represent the status of R2O projects has been to replicate the Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) uses to monitor the maturity of certain technologies. While TRLs and analogous concepts have their place in the engineering community because of their relationship to physical, mission-relative deliverables, such readiness levels and other representations of progress are challenging to develop for a fluid R2O environment. There are a few major reasons for this challenge. First, when R2O activities commence, there is no guarantee that they will produce a transitioned product i