Decision Based Design Open Workshop Proposal

An Open Workshop on Decision-Based Design: Status and Promise

The Three Primary Investigators for this Project are:
Wei Chen
Assistant Professor

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Clemson University
Clemson, SC
Linda Schmidt
Assistant Professor

Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of Maryland
University Park, MD
Kemper Lewis
Assistant Professor

Department of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering
State University of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY

I. Need and Objectives


We propose to conduct a three-year open workshop via electronic and internet related technologies for the development of a common foundation for academic scholarship in design. The workshop will focus on decision-based design. The goal of this open workshop is to engage design theory researchers in a dialogue to establish a rigorous and common foundation for research and educational endeavors. Progress in the open workshop dialog will be assisted by three face-to-face meetings each year of a core group of researchers committed to the goal. Funds requested by this proposal will be used to establish and maintain the open workshop web site and to subsidize travel for participants to the supporting face-to-face meetings.


  • to establish the role of decision-based design in mechanical engineering, engineering in general, and in a modern social environment by debating issues such as "Is decision making the fundamental construct in design?" and "Is decision-based design founded in behavioral studies, social sciences, or in physical sciences and technology?"
  • to provide a foundation (approaches, problems, references, textbooks) that could both illustrate design as decision making and be used in classrooms to help students gain experience in decision analysis.
  • to define what "design" should and should not be from a decision making perspective.
  • to establish a relationship between the theories developed in other science domains such as physics, mathematics, information and management science with the theories developed in design engineering methodologies.
  • II. Significance

    1. The workshop series fulfills a portion of the NSF's research agenda as set forth in the "NSF Strategic Planning Workshop Final Report" dated April 1996 for the pursuit of design formalisms and rigor.

    2. The workshop series promotes academic scholarship in the area of decision-based design and design in general, where there currently is no strong sense of academic rigor. Improving the perception of academic rigor will assist all members of the design research community in their academic careers.

    3. The workshop series will concentrate a diversity of research efforts on one key issue to the community - establishing decision support as the fundamental construct in design.

    III. Selection of Participants


    We expect the number of participants in the face-to-face meetings to be limited to about 10 initially and gradually expanded to 20 at the end of this workshop series. A number of participants have expressed interest in attending the first meeting. We plan on keeping a "core" group of overlapping participants from one meeting to the next. This is not to say that every participant will continue, but we will ensure that at least a group of 5-8 people will attend meetings in succession to facilitate continuity of discussion and progress towards our goals. Meanwhile, our goal is to achieve the openness of this workshop series. The means for disseminating the results are discussed in Section V (Dissemination).

    Selection of Participants

    The participants will be selected based on a position paper addressing the views of searching a science base for engineering design theories and methods in general and decision-based design in particular. The organized committee, composed of the project PIs, will be responsible for selecting the participants based on the position papers. Initially, travel funds will be offered to up to 10 participants as compensation for their trips. This number will gradually grow to 20 at the end of the workshop series. Public announcements of the meetings will be made via various e-mail lists and professional meetings and via the web pages. To have a productive overall workshop and due to budget limitations, not all applicants will be invited.

    The selection of participants will be based on the following criteria:

    1. past and potential contributions in establishing design as a scholarly pursuit in engineering.

    2. interest in, enthusiasm for, and experience with decision-based design.

    3. affiliation and service period in academe (the workshop organizing committee will seek balance between representatives from different universities and diversity in faculty with varying tenure experience), and

    4. diversity of views, as evidenced by position papers.

    IV. Format of Workshop

    A. The Open Workshop

    A primary component of the workshop is the continual, open development and dissemination of the philosophical, scientific, and practical results and discussions. It is of paramount importance that the results and information pertaining to the workshop be distributed via the internet. Therefore, a web site will house the relevant information from the initial proposal, to the workshop plans and administration, to the potential list of participants, to any deliverable developed as a result of the workshop. An email mailing group will be established along with a news group to discuss issues related to decision-based design in a continuous forum to complement the discrete discussions at the face-to-face meetings.

    The web site will house the following continuous deliverables:

  • literature buffer that would act as a source of fundamental pieces of work that establish the cornerstones of design and house any publications generated from the workshop.
  • a series of examples that illustrate design as decision making and help students implement decision analysis.
  • An email posting site to submit and send out comments, suggestions, and discussion relevant to the workshop.
  • The website will continually be updated, depending upon the progress of the workshop. Links to participant organizations, and relevant sites and/or papers will be provided. It is a primary motivation that the dissemination of the workshop information be available to anyone at anytime. This is one of the motivations of holding this workshop, to further the field of design by establishing a common foundation of scholarship for researchers, educators, and practitioners in design in academia, government, and industry.

    B. The Face-to-Face Meetings

    The complement to the open workshop via the internet will be a series of face-to-face meetings with the core of the decision-based design discussion group. Prior to the meetings the attending participants will receive an agenda which includes a reading list of background papers and the key questions or issues to be discussed.

    The format of these face-to-face meetings are as follows.

    Friday Evening - "Steering Session"

  • Report on action items from last meeting.
  • Short steering presentation to set the issues for the meeting.
  • Saturday Sessions:

    Session I- "Focusing Session"

  • Full group discussion of background material and relevance to key questions.
  • Develop full group consensus on workshop focus questions to be addressed in small group sessions.
  • Session II- "Solving Sessions"

    Small group breakout sessions to address individual questions and develop solutions, action plans, or some other appropriate response to be presented to the full group.

    Session III - "Synthesis Session"

    Presentation of breakout session responses to full group for consensus building and the synthesis of views of all participants.

    Session IV - "Wrap-up Session"

    Seek closure on each focus question, determine:

  • Is the question closed or should it be refocused for another venue?
  • What communication items should be developed for the Open Workshop Site?
  • Is it time for a publication?
  • Formulate questions and issues for the next meeting and open workshop discussion.
  • V. Evaluation/Deliverables

  • Establishment and Maintenance of Open Workshop with web site and email listserve.
  • Organization and orchestration of the three supporting meetings each year.
  • Reports to the Open Workshop on progress during the supporting meetings.
  • Conference or journal publications as deemed relevant by the workshop participants. Relevant topics may include:
  • short area paper describing the state of the field.
  • journal articles establishing the relevance of design in modern society, the scholarship necessary to succeed in design, and the definition of commonly misused terms in design.
  • a taxonomy of design as decision making, defining terms which are used by many researchers to mean many different things in design.
  • We will seek feedback from the design community at large in the form of response or reaction to the dissemination of workshop results in whatever fashion it occurs. With participants who attend a number of the face-to-face meetings, we will assess the improvement of the workshop over time. Hopefully, the design community as a whole will perceive progress as waves of scholarship are propagated from the workshop into the academic, industrial, and government sectors.