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An initial comparison of methods for representing and aggregating experimental uncertainties involving sparse data

Romero, Vicente J.; Swiler, Laura P.; Urbina, Angel U.

This paper discusses the handling and treatment of uncertainties corresponding to relatively few data samples in experimental characterization of random quantities. The importance of this topic extends beyond experimental uncertainty to situations where the derived experimental information is used for model validation or calibration. With very sparse data it is not practical to have a goal of accurately estimating the underlying variability distribution (probability density function, PDF). Rather, a pragmatic goal is that the uncertainty representation should be conservative so as to bound a desired percentage of the actual PDF, say 95% included probability, with reasonable reliability. A second, opposing objective is that the representation not be overly conservative; that it minimally over-estimate the random-variable range corresponding to the desired percentage of the actual PDF. The performance of a variety of uncertainty representation techniques is tested and characterized in this paper according to these two opposing objectives. An initial set of test problems and results is presented here from a larger study currently underway.