Scientific Applications and Modeling
In these circumstances, models or other scientific applications provide the user with effective tools to analyze and solve otherwise intractable problems.
DPRA's approach in this area emphasizes (1) close and ongoing involvement with the client to establish mission objectives and operational constraints and (2) systematic development procedures that place workable, tested, and validated applications in the hands of clients trained to use them effectively.
Successful applications and models developed by DPRA include:
Regulatory Economic Impact Analysis Model
The Regulatory Economic Impact Analysis Model is an Internet-based computer model for estimating the economic impacts of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) proposed Hazardous Waste Identification Rule (HWIR).
The model allows the user to perform sensitivity analyses on treatment and disposal cost savings by varying model parameters—such as chemical concentration level, treatment trains, and treatment costs—across varied HWIR regulatory options.
The Joint Flow and Analysis System for Transportation (JFAST) is a multi-modal transportation analysis model used by the U.S. military Transportation Command and the Joint Planning Community to determine transportation requirements, perform course of action analysis, and project delivery profiles of troops and equipment by air, land, and sea.
The Modeling Process
In concert with the client, perceived needs are closely analyzed and formulated into clear and specific objectives. During this phase, rapid prototyping of the final product may be done using DPRA's extensive set of development tools.
Prototypes of screens and logic can often be viewed over secure Internet connections, allowing the client to view and work in real time with a range of options while avoiding the challenges of installing software remotely. These approaches promote clear understanding and can help generate design options that contribute in unexpected ways to effective client operations.
Specification of Model Behavior
This step determines the specific the scientific content of the model or application. It entails a team approach that brings together DPRA's domain experts with the client's experts in the field. Quantitative relationships are identified between each major element of the system or problem. These are documented, examined for pertinence and plausibility, and provide the basis for all further work.
In particular, these relationships can be combined with optimization methods to create tools useful to clients in a wide range of common (and uncommon) situations. DPRA staff has unusual expertise in a variety of optimization methods and other operations research techniques including linear and dynamic programming, network modeling, etc.
This phase involves translation of the final application specification into working computer software. DPRA's programming staff is fluent in all of the object-oriented languages within the Microsoft Visual Studio application development suite, including C++, Visual Basic, Visual FoxPro, and J++.
For more demanding scenarios, DPRA provides multitier architectural solutions containing GUI front-ends, middle-tier components that enforce the organization's business rules and work-flow process, and the back-tier data stores such as Microsoft's SQL Server or Oracle that host the organization's data.
Model Testing and Validation
Beyond mere debugging of computer code, this phase demonstrates that the model or application is well behaved and in conformance with reality as exemplified by documented test cases.
It also includes an assessment of the sensitivity of the application to errors in assumptions, data, parameter values, or other internal or external perturbations. Thorough testing is an essential part of the QA/QC efforts that DPRA applies to all its activities.
Software becomes a solution only when clients are thoroughly proficient in its operation. For this reason, DPRA is prepared to offer training in a variety of modalities ranging from tutorial self-learning guides (either paper- or web-based), distance learning, on-site staff support, or on-site presentations.
Whatever the method, DPRA's experienced presenters and electronic publishing experts ensure that all instruction is clear, understandable, and effective.