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The challenge
Traditional safety and security approaches are being challenged by the introduction of new technology and the increasing complexity of the systems we are attempting to build. The role of the humans operating these systems is also changing as they are asked to supervise increasingly complex automation that may not be fully understood, may lead to unexpected consequences, and can lead to much more complex human errors than manual tasks and simple predefined procedures. We can no longer effectively separate engineering design from human factors and from the social and organizational system in which our systems are designed and operated.

Our goal
We take a systems approach to safety and security by applying systems thinking to develop practical methods. The goal of PSASS is to create and evaluate new tools and processes that use systems thinking to provide more comprehensive, more efficient, and more effective results. Ensuring safety and security in modern systems will require multi-disciplinary and collaborative research based on sound system engineering principles. PSASS uses participation from multiple MIT schools (engineering, management, social sciences, and sciences) as well as collaborators at other universities and industry partners. PSASS affiliates include DoD partners, aviation (aircraft and air transportation systems), spacecraft, medical devices and healthcare, automobiles, railroads, nuclear power, defense systems, energy, oil and gas, and other domains.

Principles of Operation

  • Collaboration: Emphasis is on collaborative research with like-minded thinkers around the world who want to apply systems thinking to safety. Collaborators can include universities, government agencies, companies, and other groups worldwide.
  • Systems thinking: Research looks at safety from a holistic, systems approach rather than just at the technical, managerial, or social factors in isolation from each other.
  • We solve real problems, not just abstract or theoretical ones: Our goal is to have impact on risk management as practiced and on accidents as experienced in the world, not simply to publish academic papers.
  • Guided by the needs of stakeholders: Problems on which to focus are selected for their importance in real-world settings. Partners in industry and government and other stakeholders (users of these systems and employees who work in them) provide inputs about the unsolved problems they face.
  • Enhance communication and cooperation: PSAS provides an environment where companies, regulatory agencies, and other stakeholders (e.g., users, employees and unions, customers) can cooperate without conflict of interest or legal issues.
  • Technology transfer: Technology transfer from research to practice is emphasized including implementing and tailoring specific solutions for a particular company or government agency.
  • Consider all aspects of system safety: The entire system lifecycle is considered. Too often researchers focus on system design and development and apply less effort to operations and management.
  • Socio-technical view of safety: The entire socio-technical structure is considered from government to management and down to designers and operators. Effective solutions to safety problems usually require changes at all these levels, not just in the physical system itself.

Activities

  • Evaluation of current practices in industry and in government certification and regulation of safety-critical systems and the efficacy of both old and new approaches.
  • Focused research on specific problems suggested by and supported by our industrial and governmental partners.
  • Mentoring and internships by graduate students in industry and government, including research grounded in specific company and governmental problems.
  • Newsletters and other information dissemination channels about activities, results, etc., including early access to thesis abstracts and results.
  • Sponsored research
  • Educational activities including short classes and workshops for PSASS partners.
  • Knowledge and information sharing

If you are interested in collaboration with PSASS, please contact us!

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