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27 June 2006 Project management at a university
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Managing instrumentation projects, large or small, involves a number of common challenges-defining what is needed, desiging a system to provide it, producing it in an economical way, and putting it into service expeditiously. Doing these things in a university environoment provides unique challenges and opportunities not obtaining in the environment of large projects at NASA or national labs. I address this topic from the viewpoint of knowledge of two such projects, the development of OAO-2 at the University of Wisconsin and the relocation of Fairborn Observatory to the Patagonia Mountains in Arizona, as well as my own developemnt of the Tennessee State 2-m Automatic Spectroscopic Telescope. For the university environment, I argue for a more traditional management style that relies on more informal techniques than those used in large-scale projects conducted by big bureaucratic institutions. This style identifies what tasks are really necessary and eliminates as much wasteful overhead as possible. I discuss many of the formalities used in project management, such as formal reviews (PDR, CDR, etc.) and Gantt charts, and propose other ways of acheving the same results more effectively. The university environment acutely requires getting the right people to do the project, both in terms of their individual personalities, motivation, and technical skills but also in terms of their ability to get on with one another. Two critical challenges confronting those doing such projects in universities are 1) keeping the contractors on task (the major challenge to anyone doing project management) and 2) dealing with the purchasing systems in such institutions.
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Joel A. Eaton "Project management at a university", Proc. SPIE 6271, Modeling, Systems Engineering, and Project Management for Astronomy II, 627105 (27 June 2006);


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