Human factors play a critical role in most systems and industries. There is a growing understanding that earlier consideration of these factors in design can greatly improve efficiency and safety, and prevent the need for more costly remedial activities at a later operational stage. 

Organisations are increasingly seeking human factors research and guidance to improve their understanding of how best to incorporate human behaviour and performance into design.

Our expertise includes specific research contexts and applications such as driver behaviour, military/defence human factors and industrial ergonomics. However, we possess a vast range of skills and experience which enables us to approach any human-systems problem.

Our areas of expertise include:

  • Human factors in aviation systems – how human factors can help us to understand performance and human error in advanced and highly automated aviation systems, for example cockpit attention management, pilot decision making analysis and predictive tools for improving safety in aviation maintenance.

  • Analysis of performance in aviation systems – development of objective and subjective measures to characterise, compare and understand human performance and culture in aviation systems.

  • User centred system design – understanding how display design can support or degrade human performance in safety critical tasks in the aviation domain. In particular, attention management on synoptic and ‘big picture’ displays.

  • Manual assembly tacit skills capture – understanding what people do in their performance of production tasks and particularly the cognitive processing and decision making that they are not consciously aware of to evaluate the suitability of manual skills for automation and for function allocations.

  • Industrial ergonomic assessments – developing health and safety by conducting ergonomic risk assessments in relation to task characteristic, through task redesign and process improvements, and by cultivating physical working environment conditions and organisational behaviours.

  • Human-robot interaction – investigating the factors that affect implementation, human adoption and role change including the psychological impacts of sharing workspace to develop design tools for industrial collaborative work systems; analysing health and safety legislature to formulate new safety report system and ethical policy for collaborative working.

  • Defence human factors – applying knowledge in cognitive and occupational psychology and the social and behavioural sciences to address defence stakeholder requirements. This includes all elements of the tri-Service training and personnel domains.

  • Driver behaviour – the application of scientific research and knowledge to the understanding of driver decision making, attitudes and behaviours. In particular, the design and development of interventions to reduce the risk of crash involvement from a psychological, behavioural and educational perspective.

About our research

Our greatest strength is the ability to combine the academic rigour and long-term perspective of a university with the commercial and business focus of industry.

Our excellence in strategic and applied research has enabled us to make significant contributions to the world around us for over 60 years. We address real life challenges and focus on research that is of strategic and practical importance.

We provide a supportive research community for students and our academic work is regularly published in journal article, book or thesis form.

Our facilities

We possess a range of traditional techniques and state-of-the-art equipment such as controlled laboratory environments with industrial jigs and tooling, eye tracking, motion capture and computer aided design simulation modelling.

For driver behaviour research, we operate a realistic PC-based low cost, moderate fidelity interactive driving simulator (STIsim model 400) suitable for assessing driving performance across a number of different parameters. Our Driving Simulator includes four colour monitors supporting three driving displays (right, left and centre), and a rear view mirror to give a 180º field of view, a modular steering unit with speed sensitive feel provided by a computer controlled torque motor through a full-size steering wheel, and a modular accelerator and brake pedal unit. The system collects detailed performance measurements, enables scenario design and includes a simple vehicle dynamics model and power train model. Visual and auditory feedback and driving tasks and events are programmable within a unique language that allows flexibility in the specification of sequences of tasks, events and performance measurement intervals.

Our cabin evacuation simulators are used to conduct research into various aspects of air cabin safety. Research trials can be filmed using a range of video recording equipment, and cameras can be located as required. Video footage can be taken in conditions of darkness using infra-red lighting and IR sensitive cameras. Thermal imaging cameras can be used to obtain footage where non-toxic smoke has been introduced into the cabin. A video editing suite is also available, with time-coding equipment, to analyse research footage.

For aerospace, we have two flight deck simulators which are used for teaching and research into the human machine interface. A large B747-type simulator with visuals is complemented by a B737NG procedural simulator.

Working with us

Our human factors specialists work closely with a number of industrial and research partners within industries such as aerospace, defence/military, manufacturing and automotive. Our close engagement with industry provides us with a better understanding of issues and allows us to deliver mitigating solutions.

Services we are able to offer include:

• Development of new safety inspectorate procedures/report systems
• Organisational diagnostics and field study analysis
• Usability studies and testing
• Training needs analysis and trainer course development.