top of page
Glass Buildings




The Philosophy of Safety Engineering

Leads: Neil McDonnell and C. Michael Holloway (NASA)
Key Contributors: Adam Carter, Chris Kelp,

Stephan Leuenberger, Mona Simion

PhD: Finlay Mccardel

Research Themes

  • The causal and explanatory frameworks being deployed in accident investigations.

  • The model of what a 'safety argument' should be.

  • The nature of justification and evidence used in 'safety cases'.

The Safety Engineering Reading Group (SERG)


The Safety Engineering Reading Group meets to review papers from the safety engineering literature that have an important philosophical component. Common topics include the nature of evidence and justification, causation, and what makes for a good 'safety case'. After each session SERG jointly authors a report that goes to our collaborators at NASA.

Doctoral Projects: The Philosophy of Safety Engineering PhD

The University of Glasgow has teamed up with NASA and AHRC to offer a joint PhD to answer the question of what makes a rocket safe. The Philosophy of Safety Engineering PhD provides funding for a student to look at a variety of philosophical questions on the issue of the safety of aeronautics, including space travel, and how do we establish that a complex system is safe. The PhD student's research will look at accident investigations and ‘safety cases’ – the evidence provided to show that a new system/component is safe. The work will involve analysing the case history of accident investigations, and a range of such ‘safety cases’, with the aim of identifying and defending ways to improve upon the philosophical assumptions about causation and evidence that are being deployed at present. The end goal is to make complex systems, in any sphere, safer. The project is co-supervised by University of Glasgow philosophers Neil McDonnell and J. Adam Carter, along with NASA researcher C. Michael Holloway.

Back to Top


bottom of page