Sampling techniques are selected using the sampling method selection. This method generates sets of samples according to the probability distributions of the uncertain variables and maps them into corresponding sets of response functions, where the number of samples is specified by the samples integer specification. Means, standard deviations, coefficients of variation (COVs), and 95% confidence intervals are computed for the response functions. Probabilities and reliabilities may be computed for response_levels specifications, and response levels may be computed for either probability_levels or reliability_levels specifications.

Currently, traditional Monte Carlo (MC) and Latin hypercube sampling (LHS) are supported by Dakota and are chosen by specifying sample_type as random or lhs. In Monte Carlo sampling, the samples are selected randomly according to the user-specified probability distributions. Latin hypercube sampling is a stratified sampling technique for which the range of each uncertain variable is divided into \(N_{s}\) segments of equal probability, where \(N_{s}\) is the number of samples requested. The relative lengths of the segments are determined by the nature of the specified probability distribution (e.g., uniform has segments of equal width, normal has small segments near the mean and larger segments in the tails). For each of the uncertain variables, a sample is selected randomly from each of these equal probability segments. These \(N_{s}\) values for each of the individual parameters are then combined in a shuffling operation to create a set of \(N_{s}\) parameter vectors with a specified correlation structure. A feature of the resulting sample set is that every row and column in the hypercube of partitions has exactly one sample. Since the total number of samples is exactly equal to the number of partitions used for each uncertain variable, an arbitrary number of desired samples is easily accommodated (as compared to less flexible approaches in which the total number of samples is a product or exponential function of the number of intervals for each variable, i.e., many classical design of experiments methods).

Advantages of sampling-based methods include their relatively simple implementation and their independence from the scientific disciplines involved in the analysis. The main drawback of these techniques is the large number of function evaluations needed to generate converged statistics, which can render such an analysis computationally very expensive, if not intractable, for real-world engineering applications. LHS techniques, in general, require fewer samples than traditional Monte Carlo for the same accuracy in statistics, but they still can be prohibitively expensive. For further information on the method and its relationship to other sampling techniques, one is referred to the works by McKay, et al. [MBC79], Iman and Shortencarier [IS84], and Helton and Davis [HD00]. Note that under certain separability conditions associated with the function to be sampled, Latin hypercube sampling provides a more accurate estimate of the mean value than does random sampling. That is, given an equal number of samples, the LHS estimate of the mean will have less variance than the mean value obtained through random sampling.