Call for papers – Sociotechnical Systems Thinking in the Manufacturing and Service Industries

Special issue of the Journal of Human Factors in Manufacturing and Service Industries on Sociotechnical Systems Thinking

Sociotechnical systems theory emerged in the 1950s from a program of research that focussed on the disruptive impacts of new technologies on human work (Eason, 2014; Trist & Bamforth, 1951). Primarily a work design theory, sociotechnical systems is heavily underpinned by systems theory and contains principles related to participative democracy and humanistic values. This engenders a focus on both the performance of the work system and the experience and well-being of the people performing the work (Clegg, 2000). A key contribution is the provision of various principles and values to support the design of sociotechnical systems that align with open systems principles (e.g. Cherns, 1976; Clegg, 2000; Davis, 1982; Walker et al, 2010).

In recent years there has been an explosion of sociotechnical systems thinking within Human Factors research and practice. This has seen various applications of sociotechnical systems theory and related systems thinking approaches that are used to improve how we design and evaluate complex sociotechnical systems (e.g. Rasmussen, 1997; Vicente, 1999). A key aspect of recent applications is that there has been a recognition of the utility of sociotechnical systems approaches for the design and evaluation of overall work systems, as well as for responding to broader societal issues that span multiple organisations such as security, sustainability, health-care provision and urban planning (Davis et al. 2014).

This resurgence of sociotechnical systems thinking has led to new and novel applications in the design, evaluation and optimisation of manufacturing and service industry systems. The aim of the special issue is to provide researchers and practitioners with an opportunity to present the latest applications of sociotechnical systems thinking in research and practice in the manufacturing and service industries. Importantly, a focus of the special issue will be on the increasingly applied nature of this research and practice. As a result, articles should have a strong focus on the applied nature of the work being described and the translation of sociotechnical systems thinking knowledge, theory, principles and research in practice.

Papers are welcomed on, but not restricted to, the following topics:

  • Reviews of sociotechnical systems theory and methods and their use/applicability/utility in the manufacturing and service industries;
  • The use of sociotechnical systems thinking approaches (e.g. Cognitive Work Analysis, Soft Systems Methodology) to inform the design of manufacturing and service industry systems;
  • Accident and incident analyses/investigations involving the use of sociotechnical systems thinking approaches;
  • The development and/or evaluation of sociotechnical systems thinking theory and methods;
  • Studies involving the optimisation of manufacturing and service industry systems using sociotechnical systems thinking approaches;
  • Studies examining sociotechnical systems theory in manufacturing and service industry systems;
  • Work design studies in the manufacturing and service industries;
  • Studies examining the effectiveness of sociotechnical systems-based interventions; and
  • Articles discussing future sociotechnical systems thinking research and practice needs in the manufacturing and service industries.

All papers will be subjected to the standard peer-review procedures of the journal. In addition, reviewers will be asked to consider the applied nature of the work. Potential authors are requested to submit their paper for consideration to Professor Paul Salmon ( or Dr Gemma Read ( prior to electronic submission so that the Guest Editors can ensure its scope and quality is suitable for the special issue.

The deadline for submissions is the 31st August 2017.

Following approval, papers should be submitted online via the journal website and Wiley online system. Formatting and manuscript preparation guidelines for authors can also be found here.

When specifying ‘Article Type’ authors should select ‘SI: Sociotechnical Systems’. Failure to do so will cause the papers to go unrecognised as belonging to the special issue.

All papers will be double blind peer reviewed and managed/monitored through the online Wiley submission system.


Cherns, A. (1976). The principles of sociotechnical design. Human Relations, 29, 783-792.

Clegg, C. W. (2000). Sociotechnical principles for system design. Applied Ergonomics, 31, 463-477.

Davis, L. E. (1982). Organization design. In G. Salvendy (Ed.). Handbook of industrial engineering (pp. 2.1.1-2.1.29). New York: Wiley.

Davis, M. C., Challenger, R., Jayewardene, D. N. W., & Clegg, C. W. (2014). Advancing socio-technical systems thinking: A call for bravery. Applied Ergonomics, 45, 133-220.

Eason, K. (2014). Afterword: The past, present and future of sociotechnical systems theory. Applied Ergonomics, 45, 213-220.

Rasmussen, J. (1997). Risk management in a dynamic society: A modelling problem. Safety Science, 27, 183-213.

Trist, E. L., & Bamforth, K. W. (1951). Some social and psychological consequences of the longwall method of coal-getting: An examination of the psychological situation and defences of a work group in relation to the social structure and technological content of the work system. Human Relations, 4, 3-38.

Vicente, K. J. (1999). Cognitive work analysis: Toward safe, productive, and healthy computer-based work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Walker, G. H., Stanton, N. A., Salmon, P. M., Jenkins, D. P., & Rafferty, L. (2010). Translating concepts of complexity to the field of ergonomics. Ergonomics, 53, 1175-1186.


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