EAGER: Foundations for Combining Normative and Behavioral Research Methodologies to Study Systems Engineering
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The research objective of this EArly-Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) project is to demonstrate the feasibility of using web-enabled serious games to conduct controlled experiments for answering questions about decision making in systems engineering projects. A serious game is a game used for purposes other than entertainment, such as a flight simulator for training pilots. The research will leverage established techniques from the behavioral sciences to determine whether subjects in the gaming intervention behave, on average, the same as those given a traditional text-based survey. The investigation will focus on the sunk cost phenomenon in the context of a satellite engineering project as a study scenario. The sunk cost phenomenon has been widely studied in the behavioral sciences community, so it provides a solid frame of reference for this investigation. A web-enabled framework for game-based experimentation will be created to support this research.If successful, this research will have a significant impact on systems engineering research. The need for research on systems engineering methods is apparent: many of the largest systems engineering projects incur significant delays, cost overruns, and often fail to meet stated performance objectives. However, to date the systems engineering research community lacks a framework for controlled experimentation for evaluating proposed methods. This limits research progress and impedes new method adoption. The game-based approach investigated in this research can serve this role. This research also will contribute new evidence about the sunk cost effect in engineering decision making. Prior studies of sunk cost have not focused on engineers or engineering decisions, so this new data can provide important insight into one problem that potentially plagues engineering projects.