Engineered Resilient Systems: Systems Engineering Knowledge Capture and Transfer

Principal Investigator:  Dr. Donna Rhodes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

Timeframe:  September 2013 to August 2014

Category: Systems Engineering and Systems Management Transformation (SEMT)


Objective:  A pressing concern in the defense-related industry, and government generally, is the aging workforce.  The resulting wave of impending retirements of experienced personnel may lead to lost knowledge and inability to recreate past systems, let alone develop new ones of growing complexity. The concern over lost expertise, including both in-domain as well as systems-level thinking is a real one, and one that has received growing attention. Using a structured technique, it has been shown that novices can approach expert-like strategies in the use of visual tradespace exploration for decision-making.  Additionally, tradespace exploration has been shown to be useful as a “boundary object” fostering cross-domain conversations, and facilitating decision making for complex systems. Such tradespace results are promising in representing a means for capturing and transferring expert knowledge and skills.  This research project will identify how Engineered Resilient Systems artifacts (including tradespace exploration methods, processes, and tools, as well as other supplemental knowledge management means) can act as an expertise transfer, enabling junior engineers to perform at the level of more experienced engineers

Approach: The research team has performed knowledge and Information gathering, using available literature and discussions with subject matter experts, and performed artifact and knowledge coding.  A Naval ship case study, with data provided by the sponsor, is being used in an exploration case study, and will result in the synthesis of a “preliminary prescription” for Engineered Resilient Systems artifacts for knowledge capture/transfer for tradespace exploration studies.  Preliminary validation will be performed.  The design of a full-scale case study will be developed, as well a proposed use cases for knowledge transfer to novices via tradespace artifacts.

ApplicationFindings resulting from this research will be shared with collaborators at Georgia Institute of Technology to inform further development of research on the Framework for Assessing Cost and Technology.


Publicationsnone to date, but a recent publication articulates some of the rationale for this work:

Spero, E., Bloebaum, C.L., German, B.J., Pyster, A., and Ross, A.M., “A Research Agenda for Tradespace Exploration and Analysis of Engineered Resilient Systems,” 12th Conference on Systems Engineering Research, Redondo Beach, CA, March 2014

Research team

  • Dr. Donna H. Rhodes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Dr. Adam M. Ross, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Collaborating Institutions

Project Researchers