RF is pleased to announce that a project led by Carl Dister, Chief Innovation Manager, has been published in the London School of Economics (LSE) Handbook of Research Methods in Complexity Science.
Inspired by NERC's Reliability Assurance Initiative in 2012, Carl began researching various methods around the world that aid in analyzing the reliability of complex systems like the grid. The resulting RF research is now one of the 26 chapters in the Handbook, alongside others by various academic researchers and practitioners in the field of complexity science around the world. Also called systems theory, complexity science merges social science with physics and the use of big data methods to resolve problems within complex systems. The book provides in-depth case studies meant to provide concrete examples of complexity science in everyday life scenarios, including organizations, infrastructures, higher education institutes, and music performance.
Q: How did RF become involved with this project?
A: During a comprehensive search for methods in analyzing reliability, a particular roadmap caught our attention. It turned out the author was a researcher right in Ohio, specifically Brian Castellani, a sociology professor at Kent State University's Ashtabula campus. Brian had created an interactive global complexity science roadmap that displayed applied research in complex systems over the last 100 years. The LSE was interested in putting a case study in their handbook that utilized the SACS toolkit, an intermediary instrument with an algorithm for researchers to model complex systems with web data. Brian Castellani is the main developer of the toolkit, and it had only been applied to the fields of public health and psychology. RF was interested in utilizing the toolkit for infrastructure, which we worked on, and the LSE selected it for inclusion in the Handbook.
Q: Tell us about your chapter in the book.
A: Our work is featured in Chapter 14: Modeling Social Complexity in Infrastructures: A Case-based Approach to Improving Reliability and Resiliency. Along with another professor at Kent's Ashtabula campus, Dr. Rajeev Rajaram, Brian Castellani and I used the SACS toolkit method to investigate the root causes of reliability issues within the grid. I noticed that misoperations was a key risk in our region, and we had yet to make much headway in finding its root causes. From a systems theory perspective, it appeared that the root causes of the problem may go beyond the equipment itself. Considering rates for crime, physical and mental illnesses, unemployment, and other social factors both in our country and in our communities we can get an idea of other issues that may cause power industry workers, both in the field and in the office, to make mistakes at work.
Q: What impact do you think the work could have on electric reliability?
A: I think it can challenge us to dig a little deeper when we look at the causes of certain events. Perhaps we could get to a point where we really evaluate the underpinning of human behavior in the workforce. Already, we are beginning to address Human Performance as a risk to the grid, with NERC hosting their Human Performance Conference last year and RF hosting one this year. We have identified that human behavior can cause problems, but we have yet to fully understand and address all the ways this can translate to potential risks to the grid. We are doing this more as we continue our use of management practices, which drive improved performance by focusing on human beings. Finally, the fact the book is out of London may help encourage the consideration of international perspectives and challenge us to think globally to address complex issues on our bulk electric system.