Searching for “Unknown Unknowns”

Abstract

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) was established to improve safety through engineering excellence within NASA programs and projects. As part of this goal, methods are being investigated to enable the NESC to become proactive in identifying areas that may be precursors to future problems. The goal is to find unknown indicators of future problems, not to duplicate the program-specific trending efforts. The data that is critical for detecting these indicators exist in a plethora of dissimilar non-conformance and other databases (without a common format or taxonomy). In fact, much of the data is unstructured text. However, one common database is not required if the right standards and electronic tools are employed. Electronic data mining is a particularly promising tool for this effort into unsupervised learning of common factors. This work in progress began with a systematic evaluation of available data mining software packages, based on documented decision techniques using weighted criteria. The four packages, which were perceived to have the most promise for NASA applications, are being benchmarked and evaluated by independent contractors. Preliminary recommendations for “best practices” in data mining and trending are provided. Final results and recommendations should be available in the Fall 2005. This critical first step in identifying “unknown unknowns” before they become problems is applicable to any set of engineering or programmatic data. Introduction The NESC was established to improve safety through engineering excellence within NASA programs and projects. As part of this goal, methods are being investigated to enable the NESC to become proactive in identifying areas that may be precursors to future problems. The goal is to find unknown indicators of future problems, not to duplicate the program-specific trending efforts. The data that is critical for detecting these indicators exist in a plethora of dissimilar non-conformance and other databases (without a common format or taxonomy). However, one common database is not required if the right standards and electronic tools are employed. Electronic data mining is a particularly promising tool for this effort.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Parsons2005SearchingF, title={Searching for “Unknown Unknowns”}, author={Vickie S. Parsons}, year={2005} }