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Human compensations for undependable systems

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Denis Besnard



Randell's (2000) dependability fault-error-failure model was originally designed with the objective of describing the propagation of faults in technical systems. Conversely, Reason's (1990) swiss cheese model was intended to describe the organisational facet of systems' failures. However useful these two views have been, there has not been a lot of effort devoted to highlighting their common features. Moreover, these two models say little about the positive human contribution to the delivery of an acceptable service with undependable systems. The investigation of these two aspects forms the main focus of this paper. Our first objective will therefore be to integrate the two models. In doing so, we will also provide an answer to the problem of scale in the description of events in complex settings: organisational factors and pure technical causes could be integrated in the same descriptive picture. Our second objective will be to show that the dependability of the service of socio-technical systems is often a matter of human compensations for poorly designed systems. This claim will be supported by three concrete examples where human compensations have permitted a partly-automated system to deliver an acceptable service.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Besnard D, Baxter G

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Published

Series Title: School of Computing Science Technical Report Series

Year: 2003

Pages: 11

Print publication date: 01/11/2003

Source Publication Date: November 2003

Report Number: 819

Institution: School of Computing Science, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Place Published: Newcastle upon Tyne