Studentship opportunity

Considering culture in the cockpit: Cultural influences on crew resource management

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences

University of Aberdeen
Mode of study

Full time / Part time

Application deadline
March 31 2019

Project details

The safety of UK helicopter operations was recently highlighted by the Civil Aviation Authority, after the assessment of 25 offshore helicopter accidents from 1992-2013.  The majority of the causal factors identified (73%) were linked to pilot performance.  Crew Resource Management (CRM) training was developed to enhance operational efficiency, improve safety, enhance resilience and enable high levels of work performance during flight.  However, there are a number of factors that could influence the effectiveness of training and the extent to which behaviours are performed.  In the current global climate one of the key factors of concern for aviation companies is the influence of cultural differences, both national and professional, on crew resource management attitudes and behaviours.  There is a lack of research examining this issue, and yet cultural conflict has the potential to adversely impact flight safety.

The focus of the proposed research will be on the examination of the impact of culture on helicopter flight safety. The aim will be to identify the key impacts of culture on CRM behaviours both within the cockpit and in interactions with team members outside the cockpit (such as maintenance and air traffic control).

The project will utilise a mixed methods approach, with a combination of questionnaire, observation, interviews and experimental protocols to address the main research questions:

  • To what extent does cultural variation (professional and national) influence CRM behaviours of employees within the same organisation?
  • Does cultural background influence acceptance and application of CRM training elements?
  • Should CRM training be tailored to different cultural groups?

The results of the project will begin to explore a new avenue of CRM-based research; the impact of different cultural variations on the safety and co-ordination of helicopter flight crews.

About the institution

The University of Aberdeen provides a range of postgraduate training programmes through the Postgraduate Research School.  These include elements such as; academic writing skills and writing for publication, alongside subject specific elements such as; using Nvivo in qualitative research and workshops on LaTex and MATLAB.  The School of Psychology provides a vibrant research environment and offers support to Psychology PhD students including an employability programme and specific workshops to address the use of various methodologies.  Research students can also attend departmental seminars, present their research at Psycholoquia and join the School Journal Club. The project will have three academic supervisors: Dr Amy Irwin, Dr Devin Ray and Professor Rhona Flin.  In addition there will be an Industrial supervisor from CHC helicopters. Dr Irwin has conducted research in the area of NTS for 9 years, including published projects addressing NTS in pharmacy, anaesthesia and agriculture.  Dr Irwin is co-lead of the Applied Psychology and Human Factors lab within the School of Psychology, University of Aberdeen.  She is also the lead for the NTS_Ag group which is focused on introducing NTS to agriculture.  More recently Dr Irwin has focused on NTS in aviation including projects addressing NTS in maintenance, general aviation and helicopters.  Dr Ray is an expert in interpersonal interaction and social cognition with a record of high quality research and publication spanning 11 years.  Professor Rhona Flin is a leading researcher in the area of Human Factors, and was a member of the team responsible for NOTECHS and several behavioural marker systems in healthcare.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria
  • A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of, Human Factors and Aviation.
  • Have a good grounding in both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
In addition to meeting the ESRC eligibility criteria.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training.  This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process.  The programme will commence on September 1st 2019.  It includes
  • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2019/20 rate £15,009 full-time)
  • fees at the standard Home rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Other information

The collaborator, CHC helicopters, is at the forefront of crew resource management in helicopter pilots and will provide ample opportunities for the successful student to work with a range of professionals throughout the project.

How to apply

  1. Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
  2. Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
  • Application form
  • Academic transcripts
  • References
  • CV
  1. Applicants submit application through GradHub

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 15th April 2019. Interviews will take place on 20th May 2019. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Aberdeen.  Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Dr Amy Irwin