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If it smells like scat, it is scat.

By Steve Geary | 05/18/2019 | 5:24 PM

Understanding data perturbations is essential in Supply Chain Analysis.  Of course, that assumes that those performing the data analysis understand data analysis and the underlying functional and operational relationships.  Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just published its intent to award a sole source contract to Florida Atlantic University Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.  Specifically, Florida Atlantic University will perform genetic sampling of harbor seal scat samples.  NOAA has published a finding that Florida Atlantic University is uniquely qualified to perform this work.

That’s right.  Florida Atlantic University is uniquely qualified to gather and test seal scat.  That by itself is amusing, certainly, but it gets better. 

NOAA attempts to justify the sole source award, which by statute must be justified.  “A statistical analysis of population structure using microsatellite data from multiple laboratories would require a model with additional parameters to explain any variability due to data collection, which in turn, increases the risks of inflating or masking any differences between populations.”

Notice there is no assertion that Florida Atlantic is better at collecting or analyzing scat than anybody else.  That would be a valid sole source justification.  Instead, NOAA asserts that Florida Atlantic’s results cannot be replicated by anybody else.  In other words, their scat apparently doesn’t stink.

Put it all together, and what we have is sole source justification to analyze scat based on the assertion that other scientists are unable to replicate the results.  “If a finding can't be replicated, it suggests that our current understanding of the study system or our methods of testing are insufficient.

Numbers matter, and so does scat in the real world.  When measuring your “no-scat” operations, make sure the measurements are repeatable and can pass the smell test.  If it smells like scat, it probably is scat.

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About Steve Geary

Steve Geary

Steve Geary is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Tennessee's College of Business Administration, and is on the faculty at The Gordon Institute at Tufts University, where he teaches supply chain management. He is the President of the Supply Chain Visions family of companies, and Chief Operating Officer at ROSE Solutions, consultancies that work across the government sector. Steve is a contributing editor at DC Velocity, and editor-at-large for CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly. He is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, and Who's Who in Executives and Professionals. In November of 2007, Steve was recognized for "Selfless Service to Our Nation and the People of Iraq" by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.



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