International Data Farming Workshop Underway in Finland

By Edward Lundquist
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Delegates at the International Data Farming Workshop meet at the Finnish Defense University in Helsinki, Finland.

The 27th International “What if?” Workshop has brought data farming experts together at the National Defence University in Helsinki, Finland.

Data farming is a way to conduct operational analysis through modeling and simulation, high performance computing to build scenarios, and then explore new options for decision makers.  The methodology permits planners and decision makers to ask the “what if?” questions to determine the probabilities of various outcomes.

The workshop is being attended by representatives from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Turkey, the U.S. and Finland.  Teams will be examining humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber warfare, operational defensive planning, and conducting fundamental work on validating the data farming methodology.

The workshop is being conducted in conjunction with the NATO Modeling and simulation work group 124, which is meeting at the same time at the Finnish Defence College.

“The workshops are good opportunities for networking, learning from other countries and to see what others are doing,” said Kevin Ng, PhD, senior defense scientist with Defence Research Development Canada in Ottawa.

Military officers attending the Finnish Defence University are participating, and a special team of high school students from the Päivölägifted and talented school in Tarttila, Finland, is examining the impact of climate change on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

Santiago Balestrini Robinson, PhD, a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta said the teams can accomplish a lot in a week.  “We won’t solve the entire problem, but we’ll understand it better.”

The workshop is very useful for scoping the problem, said Klaus-Peter Schwierz, PhD, and operations research scientist from Germany.  “We can see what is of common interest among the nations.  You get a new perspective.”

Balestrini Robinson said the students, who are all serving officers, are especially helpful in discussing scenarios.  “They know what would really be going on in an operational military context.”

Data farming combines various disciplines of modelling and simulation; rapid scenario prototyping; design of experiments; high performance computing and visualization of results in a collaborative way.

 “From our perspective, data farming is unique,” said Schwierz.  “It is a combination and collaboration of the five mutually dependent fields.”

“All of the elements exist independently.  There’s no recipe book that puts them together,” said Balestrini Robinson.  “Data farming does that.”

Gary Horne, PhD, a research scientist with MCR Federal in McLean, Va., who originated the data farming concept and who co-chairs MSG-124 said, “Here in Finland this week we have very productive collaborations of people working in five different teams consisting of both data farming analysts and subject model experts from a variety of nations giving diverse perspectives. This kind of collaboration allows for important progress on questions important to NATO and to the advancement of data farming capability.”
 

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