Bruce Kutter (2014)

Geotechnical Earthquake Engineering Experiments Into the Information Age


With some exceptions, civil engineering research has not yet really arrived at the information age. New IT tools are providing new opportunities to improve information sharing. One goal of this lecture is to convince others to use the information we and others are making available, and to encourage others make use of these new tools to share more of their research information. A distinction is made between data sharing and information sharing. NEES established the project warehouse – a community database tool for specific experiment databases (SED’s) containing all the details of specific experiments. But generally, third party researchers are more interested in studying a broader research question instead of a specific experiment; they want access to the information from many experiments without having to know the fine details of each experiment. A distinction is drawn between Question-Focused Datasets (QFD’s) built around a research questions and SED’s (Specific Experiment Datasets) built around a specific experiment. QFD’s should contain organized important information from many sources without forcing the user to wade through the fine details. Three geotechnical earthquake engineering examples of QFD’s that organize data from hundreds of complex experiments are examined. One is related to foundations on liquefied soil, another to validation of numerical models for liquefaction (developed for the LEAP project), and another to archive data from foundation rocking experiments performed at many facilities around the world. It is concluded that small datasets focus attention on a few parameters and place undue importance on nuances of the particular experiments. On the other hand, large multi-source datasets remind us that many factors play a role. With larger QFD’s, we begin to see trends in uncertainty and variability. Organizing complex information around an engineering question is arguably more interesting than organizing detailed data around an experiment; thus question-focused datasets might be a key to growth of knowledge in the information age


Bruce Kutter, Professor Emeritus, obtained his BS (1977) and MS (1978) in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Davis, and his MPhil (1979) and PhD (1983) in Soil Mechanics from Cambridge University. In 1983 he returned to Davis to serve on the faculty in Civil Engineering. He served as Associate Director (13 years) and Director (13 years) of the UC Davis Center for Geotechnical Modeling (CGM). During his tenure, the CGM established one of the world’s premier geotechnical centrifuge modeling facilities. Among various honors, he received the Hogentogler Award from ASTM, was selected as the 2nd Schofield Lecturer by the ISSMGE, and received the Norman Medal, Wellington Prize, and H. Bolton Seed Medal from ASC


Schofield Lecture