Operational Research and Analysis

There is often a disconnect between the traditional academic research community and the operational community in terms of the tasking and direction of research. Project and Programme Managers on the ground have to lead, manage and administer operations within a wide range of project management, administrative and financial constraints; the research community rarely have exposure to, or a detailed understanding of, these systems.

The reality of operating within these parameters means that the majority of the time the Project Managers have to go for what is 'achievable' and not necessarily what is 'desirable'. The project management and financial systems that they must operate under also mean that 'hard' performance indicators and statistics are very often required in order to prove impact, and hence maintain the viability of a project until its end state (remember that many projects either close; 1) through financial constraints; or 2) because they can not demonstrate effective impact; and not because the job has been done effectively and is complete). Yet the initial base data, (which is needed to develop or support performance indicators), is often not available, or unrealistically expensive to obtain through untargeted research alone. We should be doing the 'right tasks' for the 'right reasons' based on 'objective evidence' and then proving 'impact', not just starting projects based on apocryphal or subjective evidence.

Example Research Areas

  • Ammunition Technical Assessments of national stockpiles and demilitarization requirements.
  • Blast and ballistic protection requirements.
  • Clandestine deliveries of weapons, ammunition and explosives to conflict zones (Using ATPIS methodology and systems).
  • SSR from the perspective of ammunition and weapons requirements for future force structures.
  • Vulnerability to terrorist attack assessments.

This is primarily why Explosive Capabilities engages only in targeted operational research to support the development and implementation of programmes at the operational level. Statistical analysis is a required component in our operational research findings and demonstrates the % Accuracy of Data to a % Confidence Level. This means that data can be fed into the project planning cycle at a much earlier date, with a degree of confidence, and hence the impact on the ground may be improved.

Properly targeted operational research is a critical component of effective programme and project management, should be demand driven, and has a major impact on the project or programmes' legitimacy.

Research Levels

Pure Research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without necessarily looking for long-term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge. Within the small arms and light weapons community this was important to raise the profile of the issue, but with the number of deployed projects its impact is reducing. Is a disproportionate amount of time spent on this type of research?

Strategic Research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge directed into specified broad areas in the expectation of useful discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognised practical problems.

Operational Research is original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge or evidence with a specific application in view. It is undertaken either to determine possible uses for the findings of strategic research or to determine new ways of achieving some specific and predetermined objectives. This is the level of research of most importance to project and programme management teams on the ground; and should be initiated by them. It is primarily this information that will inform and shape decisions at the operational level.