A snapshot of the modeling and simulation community and education
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The Department of Defense's need for modeling and simulation (M&S) tools and professionals is growing at a rapid pace. From research to development, from training to acquisition, from requirements analysis to testing; M&S has become invaluable to achieve the best performance, lowest cost and risk, best-trained and best-prepared, adaptive and effective modern services. The demands on M&S professionals are constantly changing, adapting to different foci in application areas, shifting with increasing civilian workforce expertise and availability, and reallocating with budget priorities. Hence, instrumental to relevant education and training is adaptation to the current situation and setting sustainable long-term directions. We took a snapshot of the US Army M&S community and their education via a survey of senior personnel, querying the importance of M&S-related skills and the perceived proficiency of entry- and senior level professionals. The goal was to obtain validation for education and training programs, and to determine areas for improvement. The most important skills were found to be communications, fundamental concepts of M&S, distributed simulations, training systems, computer networks, program management, and VV&A (Verification, Validation and Accreditation). M&S education seems to be on the right track since the greatest expertise was observed in the areas of greatest importance (highly correlated, Pearson 0.74). Disconcertingly, however, we also found greater lack in more important than in less important skills, particularly for entry-level professionals. We propose a three pronged approach for shaping the future of training and education in M&S that addresses the observed shortfalls: 1) proper focus of the technical education, combined with 2) stronger emphasis on communication (e.g., through completion of a technical thesis including oral defense), better system overview (e.g., training systems, the greater processes of program management, and VV&A), and stronger emphasis on the distributed and networked environment we live in. Finally, 3) conduct concerted, interdisciplinary research and education efforts in human social, cultural and behavioral (HSCB) M&S.
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