18 Mar 08, 10:57am, Balt Indermuehle

Hi Ilana,

First off, I would like to encourage you (and anyone else reading this) to
please come participate in my human factors talk on Mopra day, that's the
Tuesday after easter, at 10am. It directly relates to some of the statements
you make in the second part of your message, which I will address further down
as well.

I generally agree with your first point (about enthusing and motivating
astronomers), but given the budgetary constraints, I believe there are more
important issues at hand that need to be addressed first, for the reasons
mentioned in my original message.

Your second point however must be addressed in more detail.
Your arguments illustrate how dangerously unaware most observers are of the
degree of automation and safety mechanisms on both the ATCA and Mopra. I cannot
speak for Parkes, but would imagine there are similar issues.

But let me address your statements in detail, sorry for the long quotes, but I
believe they are essential:

>Second, in regards to the suggestion that those who remote observe using laptops
>are actually sleeping or watching TV or being any less responsible than they
>would otherwise be in an SOC or control room.

That's not an accusation, it's an observation. And please, do not feel offended.
I am not here to blame or put blame on anyone. I'm here to point out how we all
function, why we all function the way we do, and how we can improve safety and
operational efficiency by being aware of the human factors concepts involved.

Nobody is superhuman. Situational awareness suffers whenever there are
distractions, *especially* in a slow moving environment. That's why a dedicated
observing center, a "flight deck" so to speak, makes a lot of sense. We don't
get distracted as easily and all monitoring equipment is in its proper place.

>There are some good reasons already mentioned by Simon and others for not encouraging
>laptop observing to be the "typical" observing strategy, but a
>criticism of complacency is unfair.

Criticism is the last thing on my mind. Like I said, I am not putting blame or
pointing fingers. I am observing and recording. That's why you will not find
any identifiable information in the data of the incidents I have observed in
the past 9 months, of which you will find some examples during my talk.

>The ATCA is inherently safe to use

Where does it say that? That's quite an assumption! There are some safeguards,
but I can assure you not everything is covered by them.

>If you don't stow in high winds, the telescopes will stow for you anyway.

Where is the anemometer located that measures the wind? Does the auto windstow
work all the time? Could (should) you be anticipating wind? How long does it
take to stow in the event of wind?

These are all questions you should be able to answer before making a statement
like yours above. Otherwise, the term complacent does indeed come to mind.

> If you don't stow before a thunderstorm, there are now multiple redundancies
> in place to remind you to do so

I would be very interested to hear what those are, because I am not aware of
them. Fact is, thunderstorms are not always associated with wind, sometimes
it's just lightning. What do you do to minimize damage to the telescope in a
direct lightning strike?

We have automated stows and generator operation working at Mopra (based on
wind/lightning information). We are however still learning about the impact of
automation to that degree ourselves. Does it lock us out for too long? Too

>ATCA is a friendly and easy facility to use and one that prides itself on
>having excellent monitoring software (MONICA).

The best monitoring is null and void if nobody looks at it. MONICA is indeed the
best monitoring tool, and it is used by everyone, everyday. But it does not
alert you to error conditions, nor can it make decisions for you. But it is a
great tool, when used in the right context.

I realise your focus is not on operations but on science. I would therefore all
the more encourage you to participate in my human factors presentation.


- Balt