Title

The use of computer networks in aerospace engineering

Date of Award

1995

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Information Transfer

Advisor(s)

Charles McClure

Keywords

Internet, Information Systems, Aerospace materials

Subject Categories

Information and Library Science

Abstract

The Federal government and individual engineering organizations are implementing computer networks in order to enhance productivity and competitiveness. Projected benefits may not be achieved, however, unless network systems are well-suited to the work and communication activities and environments of intended users. This study describes and explores the use of computer networks by aerospace engineers. It investigates networking from the user's perspective and presents data on the types of networks and network applications used by aerospace engineers, the work tasks and communication activities supported by networks, factors associated with network use, and network impacts. Data were gathered in a national mail survey from 950 aerospace engineers performing a variety of jobs (including R&D, design engineering, management, and production) in a diverse range of organizations. The mail survey was preceded by site visits and interviews, as well as a telephone survey.

Study results contribute to existing knowledge about both computer network use and the nature of engineering work and communication. It was found that 74% of mail survey respondents personally used computer networks. Electronic mail, file transfer, and remote login were the most widely used applications. Networks were used less often than face-to-face interactions in performing work tasks, but about equally with reading and telephone conversations, and more often than mail or fax. Network use was associated with a range of technical, organizational, and personal factors: lack of compatibility across systems, cost, inadequate access and training, and unwillingness to embrace new technologies and modes of work appear to discourage network use. The greatest positive impacts from networking appear to be increases in the amount of accurate and timely information available, better exchange of ideas across organizational boundaries, and enhanced work flexibility, efficiency, and quality. Involvement with classified or proprietary data and type of organizational structure did not distinguish network users from nonusers. Findings can be used by people involved in the design and implementation of networks in engineering communities to inform the development of more effective networking systems, services, and policies.

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