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How to accomplish the ETM 5371 written report

This paper is offered as a primer to help you begin your case study. You may be asking
yourself How problem identification begins and what process or procedures apply as I
work to define and ultimately derive a recommendation to the specific example in the
case study? You may also wonder (or wander a bit as well) how to begin collecting
factual evidence and how to interpret those facts. No fear we shall work on this
together.

Our approach will be one of emphasizing the basic application of procedures in a


methodical manner we will rely on a bit of common sense as well. One might say that
the only thing common about common sense is that it is uncommon nonetheless your
experiences to date will almost certainly affect your findings -- you will be measured on
how well you develop your position and explain it. Your worldview is part of who you
are and as we work to expand your experience base you will be challenged to qualify or
quantify your conclusions.

We will use factual evidence gathered from reviews of literature, however the basic fact
gathering phase of this investigation could work in a critical review of a real-time event.
You will become a Blue Ribbon Panel of one reviewing the facts against the law (as
you know and understand it) -- tasked to look beyond mere compliance asking Is this
ethical? Hopefully by now you see a professional level or standard beyond simple
regulatory compliance.

Your goal is to provide a complete and objective report, concisely written with a focus on
the professional integrity and ethics of the individuals and even the organization within
which they function. Your effort is to write your findings and conclusions in a
compelling manner so as to hopefully reduce risk in the management of complex
technologies. Strive to look beyond meeting (or failing to meet) the letter of the law
and use your understanding of codes of ethics, such as that provided by the National
Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), as a guideline for your determinations.

Feel free to use any and all material available to you. In addition to your directed reading
you will find a virtual gold mine of information relating to the actions which led to the
launch of STS-51L. You only need to reference enough material to support your
hypothesis, findings, conclusions and recommendations. Along your journey you should
look and hopefully recognize not only the emotions but the facts surrounding this
catastrophic event. Ask the questions, Are these findings factual and are the decisions
made in a consistent manner with laws, regulations and professional codes of ethics?
Your review during this case study should use a systematic approach to collect and
analyze information so as to accomplish a critical investigation guided by theory and
hypothesis about a presumed relationship between an individual, the technology they
were involved with, the environment it was operated in, the mission they were tasked to
perform and the overall management of that activity. The following five steps are
considered as an appropriate scientific method to accomplish your systematic approach to
this review:

1. Identify the problem


2. Review information
3. Collect data
4. Analyze data
5. Draw conclusions

As you begin your case study the nature of the problem must be defined. We will
accomplish this by selecting one individual involved in the decisions which led to the
launch of STS-51L. This could be at the early stages of SRB development or as late as
the fateful night before the actual launch during the highly publicized telephone
conference. Using this framework we will begin to focus from the general to the specific,
first considering the big rocks then following them into the smaller issues as the data
leads us. Ultimately you will need to look at a finer grains of sand in the very
foundation of this event. Here you will be challenged to systematically collect and
organize your material so that you can make accurate and objective observations.
Although the temptation will be great, you should not begin your search looking for a
nugget of knowledge, that AH HA! moment where an epiphany hits you across the
forehead. This is where your problem statement will help you stay on a straight course
through the vast expanse of information.

As you analyze your collection of factual data your mission is to compare it to a standard
of ethical conduct in the practice of managing technologies. You are not required to use
the NSPE code however, since you are somewhat familiar with it by now you might
consider it as a primary source and use any other examples you find necessary. (Should
you find fault of deficiency with the application of a specific code.) The conclusions you
make after the analysis should be based on the data you outline in your review of
literature and stated as a finding of factual evidence.

Although this is not a research project, per se, you may find it helpful to use some of the
tools used in conducting ethnographic research. Ethnography is a written account of
anthropology dealing with scientific descriptions of individual cultures. Anthropology is
a science that deals with the origins, development, and characteristics of humankind,
including such factors as customs, beliefs, and cultural development.1 To project this into
our review we can describe our ethnographic review as:

1
Wiersma, W. (2000), Research Methods in Education: An Introduction, pp 237-268, Pearson Education
Co., Needham Heights, MA
The process of providing a holistic and scientific description of
systems, processes and phenomena within their specific contexts.

Since ethics have evolved from customs, practices and beliefs during the development of
our modern day culture I hope that you can begin to see, more clearly, the way ahead.
Our study will focus on individuals and organizations which consist of defined groups of
people interacting in a structured manner. Are they behaving ethically? This is a question
you may pose in your report. Keep in mind that organizations are composed of cultures
made up of perspectives. You most certainly have heard the statement, perception is
reality -- If an individual or organizational perspective is that due process has been
accomplished during deliberations, are they in fact ethical from a professional
management of technologies point of view? Have they violated, law, regulation, codes of
ethics or even more ill-defined standards of practice and techniques (best practices) used
over time?

In the early, (conjecture) phase of your investigation, you will find it useful to develop a
hypothesis or hypotheses. Keep in mind; you are working towards a conclusion which
should include recommendations. A hypothesis is a guess at the solution to a problem
or situation. As you collect data during your study, hypotheses will be formed and even
modified. You may only have one as you begin, however the data may lead you to others
which compel you to modify, discard and introduce new hypotheses. There are no limits
to the numbers-- dont be surprised if your guess changes as you review the literature
(factual evidence).

With this information let us begin our journey into the Challenger launch decision. I
hope you find it rewarding the value of this effort will be directly proportional to the
effort you make.