Human Factors Research Group

Philosophy, Ergonomics and Applications in Complex Human Systems symposium (PEACHS 2016)

Date: 6th June, 2016

Location: NCTL Learning and Conference Centre, Jubilee Campus, Nottingham, UK

Ergonomics recognises that complex socio-technical systems require approaches to understand how we perceive, interpret and act within our environment, and how the dynamics of that environment shape events. Many of these questions are philosophical in nature, drawing on topics such as epistemology and metaphysics.

Philosophy is the discipline that deals with the essential natures of many of these key notions: causation, complexity, knowledge, perception, agency, rationality and representation. Philosophy is being challenged to make itself relevant to the questions that face our society. A philosophical input has the clear potential, through ergonomics, to directly inform theories of the design, measurement and implementation of complex human systems.

Ergonomics has questions, an awareness of the importance of the philosophical issues, and empirical data. Philosophy has the means to address these questions in a rigorous and abstract way while seeking new domains to demonstrate relevance.

The ‘Philosophy, Ergonomics and Applications in Complex Human Systems’ symposium seeks to bring the two disciplines together on a more formal basis, to share ideas and concepts. 

Suggested topics include

•             Are there alternatives to current models of causality as applied to areas such as accident and incident investigation?

•             Situation awareness – is it real, does it matter if it is real, and how does it relate to notions of consciousness?

•             In what way can we move beyond mechanistic ‘information processing’ models of perception and action?

•             When is usefulness more important than truth in the application of constructs to design and explain complex systems?

•             Are we able to formalise action and control in highly coupled complex systems? How rigorous and appropriate are the formalisms we already use?

•             How do we characterise agency given the new capabilities, demands and expectations of automation in the 21st Century?

The symposium is envisaged as a meeting of minds between philosophy and ergonomics. We therefore welcome papers from the philosophy community with little or no knowledge of ergonomics, but may have relevance to the design or analysis of how people and systems work. Similarly, we welcome papers from the ergonomics community that may have little philosophy, but are cognisant of the philosophical questions their work raises. Also, papers can be empirical but may also be more theoretical or discursive. We are currently exploring the option of selected papers being invited to submit for a journal special issue.

Submission process

Extended abstracts of up to 500 words by Monday 25April. Confirmation of acceptance around Monday 4th April.

Please send abstracts to - please include "PEACHS 2016" in the email heading. 

Successful papers will be required to register for the symposium.

This event is being run as a precursor to the "Human Factors in Complex Systems" conference also held in Nottingham on 7th and 8th June ( However, please note PEACHS is a standalone event with separate registration - details will follow Spring 2016.

We welcome any queries about the symposium to

Event organisers:

David Golightly, Human Factors Research Group, University of Nottingham

Robert Houghton, Human Factors Research Group, University of Nottingham

Stephen Mumford, School of Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Human Factors Research Group

Faculty of Engineering
The University of Nottingham
University Park, Nottingham

Telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4040