Although the interconnected systems nature of the infrastructures, and the complexity of interactions between their engineered, socio-technical and natural constituents have been recognized for some
time, the principles of effectively operating, protecting and preserving such systems by taking full advantage of “modeling, simulations, optimization, control and decision making” tools developed by the systems engineering and operations research community have not been adequately studied or discussed by many engineers including the writer. Differential and linear equation systems, numerical and finite element modeling techniques, statistical and probabilistic representations are universal,
however, different disciplines have developed their distinct approaches to conceptualizing, idealizing and modeling the systems they commonly deal with. The challenge is in adapting and integrating
deterministic and stochastic, geometric and numerical, physics-based and “soft (data-or-knowledge based)”, macroscopic or microscopic models developed by various disciplines for simulating
infrastructure systems. There is a lot to be learned by studying how different disciplines have studied, improved and optimized the systems relating to various processes and products in their domains.
Operations research has become a fifty-year old discipline addressing complex systems problems. Its mathematical tools range from linear programming to decision processes and game theory. These
tools are used extensively in management and finance, as well as by industrial engineers for optimizing and quality control. Progressive civil engineering academic programs have adopted “systems engineering” as a focal area. However, most of the civil engineering systems programs remain focused on constructing and analyzing highly idealized, often generic models relating to the planning or operation of transportation, water or waste systems, maintenance management, waste management or general infrastructure hazards risk management. We further note that in the last decade there have been efforts for “agent-based” modeling of synthetic infrastructure systems by taking advantage of supercomputers at various DOE Laboratories. However, whether there is any similitude between such synthetic and actual systems needs investigating further.