Academic aiming to save lives through publishing new series

Posted by pm357 at Feb 12, 2018 10:34 AM |
Dr Simon Bennett, Director of the Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU) at the University of Leicester School of Business has been appointed a Series Editor for Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. His series, titled: 'Systems Thinking for Safety' will migrate safety management techniques from commercial and military aviation to other domains, with a view to improving safety performance, and ultimately saving lives.

Peter Lang is an academic publisher specializing in the humanities and social sciences. It publishes a wide range of titles such as 'How Pilots Live' by Dr Bennett, monographs and edited collections. Dr Bennett recently submitted an application to Peter Lang describing the rationale, aims and prospects for his series. He plans to publish up to two monographs per annum. Most will be single-authored. The first will be a general introduction to the principles and applications of systems-thinking in the field of safety. The application was considered by the publisher's Editorial Board, which offered him the series.

So what does Dr Bennett hope to achieve? He explains: “Although academic in orientation, the monographs in my series will be written in a way that makes them accessible to a general audience. In my opinion, a good deal of academia's output is arcane, and more or less irrelevant to ordinary people. My mission (and the mission of the CSSU) is to engage directly with the real world... and change it for the better. This is why I spend most of my time off-campus in the company of politicians, civil servants, business people, industrialists and workers.

“The aim is to embed a systems-thinking approach to safety in the public consciousness, and in the minds of movers and shakers, including politicians, civil servants, businesspeople, journalists, academics and students. The overarching aim is to save lives both in aviation and in other complex socio-technical systems, such as health-care, nuclear power generation, chemicals production, oil and gas extraction, deep mining, marine transportation and rail transportation.”

Systems-thinking conceives of systems holistically, focusing on the way a system's constituent parts interrelate, and how systems work over time, and within the context of larger systems. Following the 1977 Tenerife air disaster (that killed 583 people), a traumatised aviation industry resolved to improve its safety performance. The adoption of a systems-thinking approach to risk analysis and mitigation, expressed in innovations such as the team-working standard, crew resource management (CRM), has benefited the industry.

Dr Bennett’s research focuses on risk management in commercial and military aviation. Propagating the systems-thinking approach to safety is his core research activity. His in vivo research has seen him spend 1,500 hours observing pilots on the flight-decks of A300s, A319s, A320s, A321s, B737s, B757s and EC135s, and 200 hours on the ramp observing aircraft turnarounds. He is an Associate Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and a Member of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (Air Safety Group). In his spare time, he pilots gliders.

He explains why this area of research fascinates him so much: “Systems-thinking's attraction is its inclusivity. Up to the 1990s, accident investigators mainly focused on the immediate causes of incidents and accidents - specifically the performance of the technology and those who operated it. From the 1990s onwards, theoreticians like Professor James Reason and Professor Sidney Dekker encouraged accident investigators to also consider the proximate causes of incident and accident, such as the frequency and quality of training, levels of staffing, integrity of design, organisational culture, safety climate, quality of rules and regulations and integrity of regulatory oversight.”

The CSSU at the School of Business has a well-established international reputation for its work. The Unit offers a specialist distance learning MSc course in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management, short courses in Disaster Risk Reduction, provides PhD supervision and offers consultancy services to government and industry. Dr Bennett’s series will reflect and support the agenda of the Civil Safety and Security Unit (CSSU) and its distance-learning Masters degree in Risk, Crisis and Disaster Management. The course has been running for nearly 20 years.

You can read about the new series here.

You can read about Dr Bennett’s safety work with the National Police Air Service here.