United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Advanced Information Systems Design: Technical Basis and Human Factors Review Guidance (NUREG/CR-6633)

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Publication Information

Manuscript Completed: January 2000
Date Published: March 2000

Prepared by:
J. M. O'Hara, J. C. Higgins/BNL
J. Kramer/NRC

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Upton, NY 11973

J. Kramer, NRC Project Manager

Prepared for:
Division of Systems Analysis and Regulatory Effectiveness
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

NRC Job Code J6012

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Plant information systems provide operators with information supporting situation assessment, monitoring and detection of disturbances, response planning, and response implementation. The importance of the design of information systems for human performance and reliability has long been recognized. Recent advances in design go beyond the 'one sensor -one indicator' display systems of conventional plants. Computer-based systems provide a variety of ways to process and present data. These characteristics of design represent a trend toward making displays more immediately meaningful to personnel by mapping display representations to important aspects of plant processes and to underlying cognitive mechanisms, such as perceptual processes and mental models. The objective of this study was to develop guidance for human factors review of advanced information systems based on a technically valid methodology for developing guidance. To support this objective, we developed a characterization framework for describing key design characteristics of information systems. The characterization includes the following major components: information requirements, representation systems, interface management functions, and display devices. Representation systems were further hierarchically divided into display elements (basic building blocks of displays, such as axes, alphanumeric elements, and icons), display formats (such as mimic displays, configural displays, and novel graphics), display pages (a defined set of information that is intended to be displayed as a single unit), and display networks (the organization of display pages). Then, we examined research in the following areas: (1) generic cognitive tasks that an information system must support, (2) information requirements analysis, (3) information representation, and (4) information organization. This research was used to provide the technical basis on which guidelines for review of design were developed. These guidelines address both the design process and the implementation of advanced information systems. However, there were aspects of information systems for which the technical basis was insufficient to support the development of guidance. These were identified as issues to be addressed in future research.

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