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CN06: Safety Critical Interaction: An Introduction to Usability in a Safe and Reliable Contexts

Quick Facts

Time: Monday, 12 April 2010, 14:30 to 18:00
Units: 2
Organizers: Michael D. Harrison, Philippe Palanque


This course focuses on the design and development of safety critical interactive systems. It describes and illustrates techniques for human reliability assessment (HRA). These techniques are compared with usability engineering techniques. The tutorial also describes and exemplifies approaches within interaction engineering that create a bridge between usability, reliability and safety.


The course is aimed at a broad audience. The course takes a software or system engineering perspective but will be accessible to the broader CHI community.
  • Developers will be challenged to consider the dependability aspects of their interactive systems and consider tools for assessing their designs.
  • Industrial and academic researchers will be challenged to consider the bridge between dependability analysis, software engineering for human computer interaction and usability evaluation methods. The course will provide them with basic knowledge to be able to target at safety-critical systems.
  • Students engaged in graduate studies will benefit from the description of analysis techniques, discussion of issues of repeatability and reproducability of results.
  • Strategists and business analysts will be able to explore the case for deployment of a system. They will be challenged to consider the arguments that are generally provided for the installation of a system and to explore alternative approaches.


Harrison and Palanque have presented the material as two separate one hour tutorials at the ACM SIGCHI Symposium on “Engineering Interactive Computer Systems” in Pittsburgh in July 2009. A more extended version of part of the course is provided in one week as a module with the MSc in Computing Security and Resilience at Newcastle (UK) entitled “Human Factors Engineering” and in one week as part of the Masters in HCI in Toulouse (France). The material has been combined by the authors as courseware (http://resist.isti.cnr.it/home.php) for the RESIST Network of Excellence (http://www.resistnoe.org/).


  • 9.00-9.15 Introduction to the course This section presents how the topics of the course relate to CHI topics such as Usability and User eXperience.
  • 9.15 - 9.30 Arguments and evidence This section introduces the purpose of dependability arguments and their structure. It discusses the role of evidence in supporting the dependability goals of a device or system and its context. It also explores the role of the regulator in assessing the argument.
  • 9.30 - 10.30 Models of representation This section explores representations of: (1) what people do with particular emphasis on the role of formality; (2) the interactive device or system. It discusses formalized task representations, the role of narrative and the use of constraints to scope the possible ways in which a user might engage with the device or system. In terms of the device or system, the concern will be with: (a) how they provide complete and unambiguous descriptions of these systems, (b) how they handle system complexity, how they can fit with interactive systems development processes (highly iterative) (c) and how they contribute to implementation activities.
  • 10.30 - 11.00 COFFEE
  • 11.00 - 11.30 Human error identification This section is concerned with the process of identifying human error vulnerabilities in design. The description begins with structured techniques that have similarities with cognitive walkthrough focusing on qualitative, systematic analysis of a device. This is achieved by asking a set of questions of the elements of a task or scenario. The discussion then moves onto a discussion of the use of formal models, standard properties expressed as templates and systematic analysis of attributes of the model.
  • 11.30 - 12.00 Quantification This stage of the presentation discusses techniques for the quantification of human error using both component based techniques and holistic techniques.
  • 12.00 - 12.30 Tools and Resilience This section focuses on the resilience engineering agenda, namely that the complexity of systems must be considered more carefully and that systems are resilient because people can identify and preempt problematic situations and have the mechanisms to recover from them<


  • Michael Harrison is Professor of Informatics at Newcastle University, a post he has held since 2004. He was professor of Human Computer Interaction at University of York 1989-2004. His primary research interests concern the analysis of the dependability of interactive systems using mathematically based techniques. He has also researched human reliability assessment techniques with BAE SYSTEMS, CAA and DERA in the UK. He is visiting professor at the University of Minho in Braga, chaired DSVIS’05, Safecomp’08 and FMIS’09 and technical chair for the ACM SIGCHI Symposium on Engineering Interactive Computer Systems 2010.
  • Philippe Palanque is professor in Computer Science at the University Toulouse 3. From 1998 to 2006 Philippe Palanque was head of the LIIHS research team and since 2007 is head of the newly formed IHCS research group at IRIT. Starting in 1995 he spent 2 years at CENA (Research centre of civil aviation) to develop and apply formal specification and interactive system design techniques to the field of air traffic control. For 4 years now he has been involved in several research projects funded by the French Department of Defense dealing with the notations and tools for the specification of real-time interactive systems (including Command and Control systems for drones, multimodal interfaces for military cockpits and ground segment systems in satellite control rooms …). As for civil aviation, he is now involved in the specification and certification issues of new interactive cockpits (that have to be compliant with ARINC 661 specification standard) of aircraft including A380, A400M and Boeing 787. He is chair of the IFIP Working group 13.5 on Human Error Safety and System Development and is adjunct chair for specialized conferences within ACM SIGCHI (Special Interest Group on Human-Computer Interaction). He edited and co-edited eight books or conference proceedings and co-authored more than 100 refereed publications in international conferences and journals.