Characterizing the AQ Cluster

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AQ Data System Vision and Goals

A number of concepts and principles are being used to design and build information systems in the current generation of 'web 2.0', distributed computing, social networking, etc. The AQ cluster is adopting many of these trends and 'mapping' the cluster to these concepts and principles is a useful way to define the cluster, understand it's activities in the past, and to lay out future activities. The content of this page outlines the new generation concepts and attempts to list their key attributes.


  • Distributed
  • Collaborative
  • Multidisciplinary
  • Heterogenous
  • Interoperable
  • Accessible as a Public Good
  • Sustainable
  • Facilitates Collaboration
  • Supports Experimentation
  • Time and place are no longer barriers to participation and interaction
  • Access is open to specialists and non-specialists alike
  • Information is the primary driver for progress
  • The realm of the possible is expanded through new capabilities, resources, and mechanisms


System of Systems

Global Earth Observation System of Systems

US GEO Community of Practice

Systems of Systems Engineering

  • A system is called a System-of-Systems (or a collaborative system) when:
    • The component systems achieve well-substantiated purposes by themselves and continue to operate in this way and accomplish these purposes even if detached from the overall system, and
    • The components systems are managed in large part for their own purposes rather than the purposes of the whole. Yet, they function to also resolve purposes of the whole that are generally unachievable by the individual systems acting independently.

Five principal characteristics of Systems of Systems.

  • The system of systems is composed of systems which are independent and useful in their own right.
  • Managerial Independence of the Systems.
  • Geographic Distribution.
  • Evolutionary Development.
  • Emergent Behavior.

The concept of federalism is often equated with Systems of Systesms. Five Key Principles of Federalism:

  • Subsidiarity (the most important principle)
    • Power belongs to lowest possible point within SOS and FOS team
  • Interdependence (Pluralism)
    • The autonomous development units or teams of a SOS FOS development federation stick together because they need one another
  • Uniform and Standardized Way of Doing Business.
    • Interdependence within federated SOS FOS engineering organizations is unlikely, if not impossible without agreement on basic rules of conduct, common traditions of communicating, and common units of measurement of progress and quality: basic rules of conduct; common way of communicating; and Common measurement units.
  • Separation of Powers
    • Federalism requires that management, monitoring, and governance aspects of SOS FOS engineering programs and projects be viewed as separate functions to be accomplished by separate bodies.
  • Dual Citizenship
    • Every individual is a “citizen” in two communities:
      • the local development group/professional group/union, and
      • the overall SOS FOS program at large.


A. Sage, "System Engineering and Management of System Families"

Handy, C., “Balancing Corporate Power: A New Federalist Paper.” Harvard Business Review, Vol. 70, No. 6. November - December 1992, pp. 59-67.

Virtual Organization

Decadal Survey

Leaderless Organization

Questions that distinguish a centralized and decentralized organization:

  • Is there a person in charge?
  • Are there headquarters?
  • If you thump it on the head, will it die?
  • Is there a clear division of roles?
  • If you take out a unit, is the organization harmed?
  • Are knowledge and power concentrated or distributed?
  • Is the organization flexible or rigid?
  • Can you count the employees or participants?
  • Are working groups funded by the organization or are they self-funding?
  • Do working groups communicate directly or through intermediaries?
  • Circles
  • The Catalyst
  • Ideaology
  • The Preexisting Network
  • The Champion


O. Brafman and R. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider

Open Innovation

  • Not all the smart people work for us. We need to work with smart people inside and outside our organization
  • External R&D can create significant value; internal R&D is needed to claim some portion of that value
  • We don't have to originate the research to profit from it
  • If we make the best use of internal and external ideas, we will win
  • We should profit from others' use of our intellectual property, and we should use others' intellectual property whenever it advances our own objectives


H. Chesbrough, Open Innovation