Research Goal

We take a systems approach to safety and security by applying systems thinking. 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.

Research Solutions

STAMP (System-Theoretic Accident Model and Processes) is a new accident causality model based on systems theory and systems thinking that addresses critical challenges in safety and cybersecurity such as complex software, human-decision making and human factors, new technology, social and organizational design, and safety culture.

STPA (System-Theoretic Process Analysis) is a powerful new technique for hazard analysis, system safety engineering, and cybersecurity that is based on the STAMP model. CAST is the equivalent for accident/incident analysis. These tools are now used globally in almost every industry.

Newer tools, such of those for developing leading indicators, have also been developed and are beginning to be used in industry.


We have created a cross-industry consortium to perform collaborative research in system safety engineering and security engineering. A major goal of the consortium is to perform practical research. This includes working on real problems that industries face today and producing useful solutions that practitioners can implement today. See the detailed consortium description for more information.

Applications and Research Areas


  • New, more powerful hazard analysis techniques
  • Accident investigation and causality analysis
  • Human factors and safety
  • Integrating safety into the system engineering process
  • Identifying leading indicators of increasing risk
  • Certification, regulation, and standards
  • The role of culture, social, and legal systems on safety
  • Management and operation of safety-critical systems
  • System Engineering Aspects of Safety


  • Certification of Safety in NextGen
  • Certification of Integrated Modular Avionics


  • Evaluation of STPA on the HTV
  • Design for Safety of a NASA/JAXA Scientific Satellite
  • Using STPA in early architectural trades for the planned JAXA crew vehicle


  • A Systems Theoretic Application to Design for the Safety of Medical Diagnostic Devices
  • Quality Control in Medical Manufacturing
  • The Role of Culture/Social/Legal Systems on Medical Device safety in China
  • Safety Certification of Digital-Intense Systems in Radiation Therapy
  • Learning from Safety-Relevant Events: The Role of Mental Models


  • Application of CAST and STPA to Railroad Safety in China


  • Using STPA to Analyze the Safety of Electronic Throttle Control Systems
  • Applying STPA to Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Integrating STAMP into Engine System Design Process


  • Coast Guard Helicopter Night Rescue Training Accident Investigation
  • Prevention of Fratricide in the Patriot Missile System
  • A Systems Approach to Cyber Security

Nuclear Power Plants

  • Certification of Digital Shutdown Systems in Nuclear Power Plants

Oil and Gas (Petrochemicals) and Energy

  • Developing Leading Indicators for Process Safety
  • Power Plant Gas Turbine Accident Investigation in China

Other topics

  • Corporate Governance and Management Decision Making about Safety
  • Evaluating Project Safety (System Engineering and Safety Management) in an Organization
  • Applying STAMP for Automation Decision Making in a Manufacturing Plant Quality Inspection Station
  • Using STAMP to Understand the Recent Financial Crisis

Comments are closed.