Ergonomics in Design Special Issue Proposal: Human Readiness Levels (HRL)

Ergonomics in Design
Special Issue Proposal: Human Readiness Levels (HRL)

The HRL Scale is being developed as an adjunct to current Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scales widely used across government agencies and industry.  The Special Issue will be guest edited by Holly Handley, Judi See, and Mica Endsley. The HRL Special Issue will build on current industry wide efforts, and an HFES led ANSI standards program, to develop an HRL scale. The HRL scale provides organization and program management with an easy to understand rating of the level of maturity of the technology with respect to its readiness for human use. The goal of the HRL is to support management decision making with respect to investments of time and resources needed to ensure that the end-product incorporates needed human-system integration processes, guidelines and testing considerations. 


The TRL scale was originally developed by NASA in the 1970's and was subsequently adopted by the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. It is also used in the European Union. The TRL indicates how mature a particular technology is, from 1 (Basic Principles Observed and Reported) to 9 (Actual System Proven in Operational Environment). The TRL provides a common understanding of technology status that is used by management to make decisions regarding technology funding and transition to major programs. It is also used as a tool for managing cost and schedule risk on major programs.

While the TRL scale has been widely effective and is generally understood across major government agencies and industry, it does not address issues of human-system integration (HSI).  Unfortunately, the design of the user interface for a technology or system, training and other HSI considerations are often left until late in a program or are neglected completely by management that does not understand where the major deficiencies are in a system's readiness for use by the operators and maintainers who must interact with it. The HRL scale has recently been developed as an adjunct to the TRL scale, with a one-to-one mapping along its numerical scale, to fill this need.  

The goal of the HRL is to provide organization and program management with a simple number (1-9) that indicates the level of maturity of the technology with respect to its readiness for human use.  The HRL is designed to:

  • Complement and supplement existing TRLs,
  • Focus on readiness for human usability,
  • Fully incorporate human element of a system throughout the lifecycle,
  • Minimize costs of design changes by early identification of human issues,
  • Mitigate issues early to reduce human error in fielded systems,
  • Distill results from detailed HSI methods,
  • Provide leading indicators of human readiness,
  • Use a single number to communicate human readiness.

 A number of efforts have been conducted over the past 15 years to develop an HRL scale. Building on these efforts, an industry wide HRL working group (with the support and involvement of the HFES Government Relations Committee) was established in 2019 to create a widely accepted HRL scale.  This effort is currently in the process of being transitioned into an HFES-led ANSI Standard. 

Special Section Proposal:

The goal of the Proposed Special Issue of EID is to provide an overview of the HRL concept; its history, need, and intended use; disseminate and explain the HRL scale; and provide case studies on its use and application to system development programs. EID, with its focus on supporting the application of human factors and ergonomics to the design of systems, is the perfect vehicle for this special issue. The target audience is the management of government agencies and industry programs that currently use TRLs, program managers, and HSI practitioners who would be involved in using the HRL scale to quantify the human readiness of technologies and system development efforts in order to better communicate to program management where HSI investments are needed in a timely manner.

The special issue will be guest edited by Holly Handley, Judi See, and Mica Endsley. A Call for Papers will be issued via the HFES Bulletin and website to insure a wide range of potential contributions. The pool of potential contributors to the special issue will include: (1) individuals involved in historical HRL development efforts, (2) committee members involved in the current HRL development effort, (3) individuals involved in applying the HRL scale to system development efforts, and (4) individuals involved in the development of program management and risk reductions tools for supporting system development.

Proposed Schedule:

  • August 1, 2020: Prepare and publish call for papers
  • January 15, 2021: Deadline for paper submittal
  • March 30, 2021: Reviews completed and revisions solicited from authors
  • May 30, 2021: Deadline for revised papers
  • July 15, 2021: Reviews of revised submissions completed
  • August 15, 2021: Final preparation of special issue completed

Review Process:

Holly Handley, Judi See, and Mica Endsley, as Guest Editors, will be responsible for managing the special issue manuscript selection and review process.  The review process will follow the standard EID review process, and will include as many regular EID reviewers as feasible, as well as individuals involved in HRL and TRL usage in industry, academia and government.   Each paper will be required to meet EID publication guidelines, including page limits and formatting. It is expected that 3 to 5 papers will ultimately be accepted in order to keep the special issue to one volume of EID. 

Guest Editors:

Dr. Holly A. H. Handley is an Associate Professor in the Engineering Management and System Engineering Department of Old Dominion University (ODU).  Her research focuses on developing models and methodologies to better represent the human component during the architecting and design of socio-technical systems. She is the author of The Human Viewpoint for System Architectures along with over 75 publications on topics of human system engineering.  She received her PhD from George Mason University in 1999 and is a Licensed Professional Engineer. Her education includes a BS in Electrical Engineering from Clarkson College (1984), a MS in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley (1987) and a MBA from the University of Hawaii (1995). Prior to joining ODU, Dr. Handley worked as a Design Engineer for Raytheon Company (1984-1993) and as a Senior Engineer for Pacific Science & Engineering Group (2002-2010). Dr. Handley is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Senior Grade, the International Council on System Engineers (INCOSE) and the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. She is currently the chair of the IEEE Systems Council Human System Integration Technical Committee and was recently named an HFES Science Policy Fellow. 

Dr. Judi See has been employed as a systems analyst and human factors engineer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, since 2010. Before coming to the laboratories, she worked for 16 years as a Department of Defense contractor. Her early work involved analyzing operator target detection performance and workload during F-15 and F-16 target acquisition missions. She later supported rapid acquisition for the Air Force, most notably for the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle. At Sandia National Laboratories, Dr. See has led research on alarm communications and display, vigilance, visual inspection, workplace wellbeing, workspace and office design, training effectiveness, and human readiness levels. Her most recent work involves evaluating the utility of human readiness levels for various types of missions. Dr. See is currently a member of the core team leading the industry-wide HRL working group. Throughout her career, Dr. See has published research in the areas of vigilance, target detection, signal detection theory, visual inspection, mental workload, and human readiness levels. She is a frequent peer reviewer for Human Factors, the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision MakingHuman Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries, and Structure and Infrastructure Engineering. Dr. See served as a contributing author to the recently released standard for HSI best practices, SAE6906 Standard Practice for Human Systems Integration. She received a PhD in Experimental Psychology (Human Factors) from the University Cincinnati and has professional certification in human factors and ergonomics from the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics. Dr. See is currently completing a Master of Engineering degree in Systems Engineering at Penn State World Campus. 

Dr. Mica Endsley is currently President of SA Technologies, and has worked extensively on the design of complex systems in aviation, air traffic control, military systems, power systems and health care over her 35-year career as a human factors engineer. She served as Chief Scientist for the U.S. Air Force from 2013-2015 where she promoted the use of Human Readiness Levels as a means of improving a recognition of the importance of HSI to program management.  Dr. Endsley is a Fellow and Past-President of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, and is a Fellow of the International Ergonomics Association. She is the author of over 200 scientific articles and reports on situation awareness and decision making, and human system integration. She is co-author of Analysis and Measurement of Situation Awareness and Designing for Situation Awareness. Dr. Endsley received the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Jack Kraft Innovator Award for her work in situation awareness.  Dr. Endsley is a founder and Past President of the Cognitive and Engineering Technical Group, and is the former Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making where she is currently on the Advisory Board.  Dr. Endsley also serves as an Associate Editor for Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, and serves as a frequent reviewer for Human Factors, Ergonomics, International Journal of Human Computer Studies, Journal of Safety and Systems Management, and other academic journals. She received a PhD in Industrial and Systems Engineering from the University of Southern California.