The objectives of an expedited but thorough analysis are not necessarily in conflict. Analysis can begin much earlier using preliminary test data, or, better yet, data from the screening or guiding tests recommended in Chapter 3. As a result, data base structures can be set up, analysis programs can be debugged, statistical models can be (at least partly) tested and assumptions validated, and useful graphical tools and other methods for presentation of results identified. This would greatly expedite the evaluation of the final operational test data. However, when time is not sufficient to permit a thorough analysis, ways should be found to extend an evaluation if it can be justified that there is non-standard analysis that is likely to be relevant to the decision on the system.

The members of the testing community are committed to do the best job they can with the resources available. However, they are handicapped by a culture that identifies statistics with significance testing, by lack of training in statistical methods beyond the basics and inadequate access to statistical expertise, and by lack of access to relevant information. By addressing each of these deficiencies, the test evaluation reports will be much more useful to acquisition decision makers.

The panel advocates that the analysis of operational test data move beyond simple summary statistics and significance tests, to provide decision makers with estimates of variability, formal analyses of results by individual scenarios, and explicit consideration of the costs, benefits, and risks of various decision alternatives.

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