Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the Ombuds?

Sylvain BruniMr. Sylvain Bruni (he/him) will serve as Ombuds at the International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care in Chicago.  Mr. Bruni is Principal Engineer and Deputy Division Director for Performance Augmentation Systems at Aptima, Inc. His technical work focuses on developing and deploying human-AI collaborative systems and technologies in defense and healthcare domains. Mr. Bruni supervises a portfolio of defense and civilian cognitive assistants called Sidekick™ (Systems for Interactive Discovery and Exploitation of Knowledge and Insights with Contextual Kinetics). He holds an SM in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Diplôme d’Ingénieur from CentraleSupélec (France). He is a trained SAFe Advanced Scrum Master and Product Owner, and a certified CMMI v2 Associate.

Mr. Bruni is additionally the Co-Chair of Aptima’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Antiracism (IDEA) Committee, and the Chair of the Council of Affinity Groups (COAG) at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), following two years as founding Co-Chair of its LGBTQ+ Affinity Group. He is a trained IDEA ambassador (basic and advanced levels) and has over ten years of experience mediating difficult conversations. He has previously volunteered as ombudsperson for international conferences and maintains awareness of the International Ombudsman Association Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice.

Mr. Bruni is a member of HFES, IEEE SMC, ACM, INCOSE, and the Human Systems Integration (HSI) Standards Committee of SAE.

How do I contact the Meeting Ombuds before, during, or after the meeting?

Mr. Bruni is accessible to meeting attendees by telephone at (617) 417-0359.   He also may be reached by email at  Additionally, you will see Mr. Bruni throughout the meeting at the Chicago Hilton.  He would enjoy meeting and speaking with you.

What is an Ombuds? 

The name “ombudsman” (om budz man) comes from Swedish and literally means “representative.” At the most fundamental level, an ombuds is one who assists individuals and groups in the resolution of conflicts or concerns. There are a number of different titles or names for this position: “ombudsman,” “ombudsperson” or “ombuds” among others.  Ombuds work in all types of organizations, including government agencies, nonprofits, academic institutions, corporations, healthcare systems, news organizations, meetings/conferences, and more.

What sort of issues and concerns may come to the Meeting Ombuds?

A full range of topics may come to the Meeting Ombuds including, among others:

  • All types of identity-based concerns
  • Harassment (including sexual harassment)
  • Free speech and free expression
  • Integrity issues/intellectual property/research concerns
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Problems about the hotel, safety, etc.
  • Issues related to the organization

If I have a concern on someone else's behalf at the meeting, may I contact the Ombuds, or is this service only for people who are concerned about themselves?

Ombuds welcome those with a serious concern about colleagues or a meeting situation as well as those with a complaint about something that affects themselves.

Will my communications with the Meeting Ombuds be confidential? Are there exceptions to this confidentiality?

One of the ethical principles of an organizational ombuds is to hold all communications with those seeking assistance in strict confidence.  The ombuds does not disclose confidential communications unless given permission to do so. The only exception to this privilege of confidentiality is where there appears to be an imminent risk of serious harm.

What is the process to inform HFES leadership about inappropriate conduct?

HFES does not tolerate discrimination or any form of harassment and is committed to enforcing its Statement of Appropriate Conduct (the "Code") at all HFES events.  Individuals wishing to report a situation should complete the Incident Report form.  In these cases, HFES will conduct an investigation and will have conversations with all involved parties.

Does the Meeting Ombuds report to HFES on issues they dealt with at the meeting?

The ombuds—without breaching the confidentiality of any communications by people using the services—will provide HFES with feedback on the nature of issues raised at the meeting and any insights or observations about systemic issues relating to the meeting or the Society.

What authority does the Meeting Ombuds have? What authority does the Meeting Ombuds not have?

The ombuds will serve as an independent, neutral, off-the-record, and confidential resource for meeting attendees to discuss any concerns they may have concerning meeting-related behaviors and activities.  The ombuds will be able to provide information confidentially and will provide a safe place for people to discuss their concerns in a confidential way to explore options for any further action.  The ombuds will not, however, be authorized to serve as a place where notice of claims can be given to HFES.  Likewise, the ombuds will not have responsibility or authority to investigate any issues raised. 

Are there different kinds of Ombuds? 

There are different types of ombuds with different roles, functional responsibilities, and standards of practice including organizational, classical, and advocate ombuds.

  • The organizational ombuds is defined as: “a designated neutral who is appointed or employed by an organization to facilitate the informal resolution of concerns of employees, managers, students, meeting attendees, and, sometimes, external clients of the organization.”
  • The classical ombuds … “typically is appointed by a legislative body to represent the public with concerns of the public with regards to the conduct of governmental agencies; they conduct formal investigations.” 
  • An advocate ombuds is defined as one who “advocates on behalf of a designated population, such as patients in long-term care facilities.”

Is the HFES Annual Meeting Ombuds an Organizational Ombuds?


Is the Meeting Ombuds the same as a Mediator or a lawyer? 

No.  While many ombuds are trained as mediators and often use mediation skills and techniques as one of many approaches to problem-solving and conflict management, the ombuds role is broader and connected to the organization. A lawyer is an advocate for their client and is associated with more formal processes and the legal system. An Ombuds does not provide legal advice.  A mediator is typically an outside professional focused on helping people solve a specific issue or problem as compared with the ombuds who has a broader scope of work.