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International Data Farming Workshop Under Way in 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 workshops are good opportunities for networking, learning from other countries and to see what others are doing.”

Representatives from Germany, Sweden, Canada, Turkey, the United States, and Finland are attending the workshop. 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, Ph.D., 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 Päivölä gifted and talented school in Tarttila, Finland, is examining the impact of climate change on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Santiago Balestrini Robinson, Ph.D., a research engineer with the Georgia Tech Research Institute in Atlanta, Ga., 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, Ph.D., an 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, Ph.D., 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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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...