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Inspire. Integrate. Innovate.

The  Collaboration Effect

Collaboration is an essential characteristic of the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (CMU SEI). It lies at the heart of our work to establish and advance software as a strategic advantage for national defense and security. As a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC) sponsored by the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)), collaboration ties together the research, development, piloting, transitioning, and policy input we conduct for the benefit of our sponsor and customers.

Collaborative interactions inspire new ideas that we integrate with our evolving research agenda to innovate new solutions. We call this process “the collaboration effect.” This year’s CMU SEI Research Review highlights the ways in which the collaboration effect advances the state of the art and successfully transitions these advances into practice.

The collaboration effect rests on three main touchpoints: the activities of study, make, and transition. These activities enable many connections that intertwine as we work with the DoD, government agencies, academia, and industry to integrate our strategic areas of work in software engineering, cybersecurity, and artificial intelligence. As we study and make, we iterate with collaborators on R&D and pilots. This work leads toward transition—often of robust, proven tools and techniques, sometimes in the form of expert advice that informs improved policy. Our work also produces artifacts to advance the state of the art and practice for software, such as technical articles, reports, and prototype software tools.

This book provides insights into research in our portfolio of public research projects for fiscal 2021 on behalf of our DoD sponsor and presented at the 2021 CMU SEI Research Review. In distribution parlance, these projects are labeled “Distribution A,” which indicates that they may be shared openly to anyone without restriction. The projects highlighted include recently concluded work and work that continues in our research pipeline to study, make, and transition results to the benefit of DoD, the USG, academia, and the private sector.

In the following pages, we take on the enduring challenges facing the DoD. Our decades-long engagement has informed our deep and nuanced understanding of the challenges faced across software, cyber, and AI. Our research springs from the DoD’s need for software innovation and cybersecurity that continually evolves in support of its intensifying mission.

The DoD needs its software-enabled systems to

  • bring capabilities that make new missions possible or improve the likelihood of success of existing ones
  • be timely to enable DoD to field new software-enabled systems and upgrades faster than our adversaries
  • be trustworthy in construction and implementation and resilient in the face of operational uncertainties including known and yet unseen adversary capabilities
  • be affordable such that the cost of acquisition and operations, despite increased capability, is reduced and predictable and provides a cost advantage over our adversaries

Those requirements drive all CMU SEI work, whether for USD(R&E), DoD programs, federal civilian agencies, or industry.

I hope you enjoy reading about CMU SEI’s fiscal 2021 research efforts, and that the following pages demonstrate the pride we take in this work. We stand by to work with you to  help you make a difference, and we encourage you to contact us at

Tom Longstaff
Chief Technology Officer
Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute