About SEAri

Vision

Be a recognized world leader in systems engineering research and advanced methods for systems enginereing, as seen by academia, industry, and government, across many technical domains.

Mission

Advance the theories, methods, and effective practice of systems engineering applied to complex socio-technical systems through collaborative research.

Objectives

  • Foster dialogue among senior system leaders across multiple domains and application sectors
  • Conduct both theoretical and empirical field research to ensure rigorous and relevant contributions
  • Leverage resources of MIT and strategic partners
  • Define and research fundamental concepts for advanced systems engineering
  • Contribute to the academic body of knowledge through journal and conference publications
  • Develop curricula, education materials, and handbooks to inspire, inform, and guide students and practitioners

Context

SEAri is located within the Sociotechnical Systems Research Center (SSRC) at MIT, which provides an intellectually diverse foundation for interdisciplinary systems research, spanning engineering, science, management, and humanities and social science.

Leadership

SEAri is guided by MIT faculty and research staff whose experiences span industry, government and academia, including serving on advisory boards and in senior positions in government and industry, and expertise spanning aerospace, defense, automotive, transportation, and commercial products.

Background

What is Systems Engineering?

The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), defines systems engineering as:

"...an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem."

SEAri research focuses primarily on contributing to advanced systems engineering as opposed to traditional systems engineering:

SYSTEMS ENGINEERING (Traditional)

Systems engineering is the process of selecting and synthesizing the application of the appropriate scientific and technical knowledge in order to translate system requirements into system design. (Chase)

SYSTEMS ENGINEERING (Advanced)

Systems engineering is a branch of engineering that concentrates on design and application of the whole as distinct from the parts… looking at the problem in its entirety, taking into account all the facets and variables and relating the social to the technical aspects. (Ramo)

Motivation

In recent years, systems engineering has received increased focus and expanded its footprint on a global scale. Many new university programs have been developed, with associated research programs, in response to the higher demand for systems approaches and skilled engineers. SEAri sees traditional systems engineering knowledge and practices evolving to meet the challenges of increasingly complex systems-of-systems. The enterprises in which systems engineering is practiced have also reached new levels of complexity, and this drives the need for new approaches. At the same time, the advancement of technology opens new possibilities for how organizations can perform engineering analysis, modeling, simulation and design. With these changes in systems, their environments, and the enabling infrastructure, the community has an urgent need for more systems research to advance the state of the art and practice. Yet, there are significant challenges as traditional research structures and educational institutions do not easily accommodate broad interdisciplinary systems research. Further, the ability to bridge the new knowledge to the community of practice is weak, so innovative mechanisms are needed.

The increasing complexity of today's systems calls for corresponding advancement of research and education to support development and deployment of methods and principles for effective conceptualization, development, testing, and sustainment of systems in a dynamic environment. In the domain of complex systems there are tremendous opportunities for success and equally tremendous risks of failure. While traditional systems engineering principles and practices are useful for certain classes of systems, many recent studies and analyses have shown that there are three significant challenges:

  1. While sound traditional systems engineering practices exist, these are not always effectively applied
  2. Traditional systems engineering practices are not sufficient for the engineering of complex systems of systems
  3. The current and future workforce is inadequate for addressing the systems challenges that face the community

In order to be effective research must be performed and then transitioned to practice which relates to this realm of complex systems with expanded system of systems scope, complex context requiring a socio-technical approach, and methods to take a value-driven perspective where value propositions involve synthesis of many stakeholder needs.

The establishment of an initiative with a focus on addressing these significant challenges will further contribute to the Institute's role as a thought leader in the area of complex systems. It will also allow MIT to play a leadership role in defining the agenda of current and future challenges in the systems engineering field while leveraging existing research collaborations to advance research and education worldwide.