PhD Studentship : Expanding the Scope of Risk Assessment in Rail - #49220

University of Nottingham

Date: 1 week ago
City: Nottingham
Contract type: Full time



UK Students

See advert for details

Full Time

7th February 2024

19th February 2024


This fully funded 42-month PhD is based within the Human Factors Research Group (HFRG) at the Faculty of Engineering. Due to the nature of this funding, we can only fund students who are eligible for Home fee status in the UK.


We are seeking a student who is motivated to explore and challenge existing practices and look for better ways to identify and respond to risk in systems where there are various sources of uncertainty and change.

Working in conjunction with Network Rail, we will advance the understanding of the theory of risk, the identification and modelling of existing and future risks, and the development of novel approaches for the proactive management of system risk in the complex railway setting.


Traditional approaches to risk assessment and risk control are largely based around determining the probability of failure and likely outcomes. There are several emerging safety approaches (safety-II, system safety, and resilience engineering) that challenge traditional safety management in uncertain, dynamic contexts, such as railways. Traditional risk assessments are also commonly carried out from an industry perspective and do not take full account of the wide-ranging impacts on all stakeholders. The research may incorporate ethical risk assessment techniques to cover wider factors that impact the long-term safety and sustainability of the railway system. You can help to create the next generation of assessment methods and practices and contribute to the associated technology, training, roles and processes.


You will have the opportunity to develop expertise in risk and risk management in complex systems. You will work with industry specialists, managers and frontline staff to understand the nature and context of the work and existing and future risks.

You will receive support from experienced academic supervisors, researchers and PhD students in the HFRG, which has a long-established research reputation in the area of Rail Human Factors.

On completion, you will have gained substantial experience of applied research in risk assessment and risk management in complex systems, developed expertise in the application of research methods and appreciation of the industry context.

Who we are looking for:

  • An enthusiastic, self-motivated, resourceful and curious applicant, capable of questioning why we do things in traditional ways, with a desire to make changes for the good of all people impacted by the work and operation of the railway.
  • Applicants who can demonstrate interest in the concept of risk and familiar with human factors and safety science literature, or capability to become proficient in this area. They should be capable of applying qualitative and/or quantitative methods and may have existing experience of system modelling methods. The applicant should be keen to engage with all stakeholders in field studies.
  • 1st/2:1 in a relevant field, or Distinction/Merit in a relevant Master’s course. This PhD cuts across disciplinary areas and may attract students with backgrounds in risk, safety, human factors, psychology, engineering or related fields, but with the capability to work across several of these areas.
  • We are considering a start date of April 2024 for 42 months.

The University actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion and encourages applications from all sections of society.

To apply, please provide a CV, cover letter and copies of transcripts showing degree classification.

For further information please contact: Dr Brendan Ryan, University of Nottingham.


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