Today I presented my 15 month review of the studies I have so far undertaken. The idea being that I can show that I can take the MPhil which I started in Jan last year and develop it to a PhD study for completion in 3 years or so.
The review consisted of a 5000 word paper and a 20 minute presentation. The review was presented to both of my supervisors and an independent academic chosen by the University to ensure that no biases have been introduced, academically or personally. The independent academic provided some good feedback on how to make things a little clearer when comparing the problems being faced in the recreational diving industry due to the lack of a formal organisational and supervisory structure. Furthermore, to explain to the reader that other high risk activities (paragliding, parachuting, general aviation etc) have a formal, legislatively-controlled structure which means that control and feedback measures put in place to ensure that safety is maintained at the user level – something that is missing in recreational diving relying on peer pressure at the ‘front line’ to maintain safe practices.
The paper linked 15 Month Review Report – Gareth Lock is the report submitted and identifies the problem space, the aims and objectives and how I aim to fulfil them using the methodology defined in the paper.
The areas which I now need to focus on are: examining as many formal reports as I can to elucidate the causality factors of diving incidents, developing and validating the model and developing a survey which takes into account any biases which may be present (examiner or subject). I have found during my research that there is a definite disconnected to what is available in public incident reports, what is in the Coroner’s report and what information is provided to the Coroner, and therefore I am going to rely, where possible, on either personal accounts submitted to me, or formal reports from formal organisations.
Notwithstanding all of the above, there are some risks to the project:
How to validate the model? When you develop a model you need to validate it before you deploy it. In existing environments (medicine, aviation, construction etc) it is possible to observe the activity being modelled and see whether the model follows real life – this validates the model. The problem in diving is that it is not possible to do this without influencing the behaviour of the diver or (at all if the diver is a solo diver) and therefore you have to rely on the feedback from the diver themselves. This requires the diver to be honest to themselves which may be a problem if they have ‘broken’ rules. This is more likely to happen when the diver is in a supervisory position but I need to capture the ‘breaking of rules’ at that level to identify failings at the organisational and supervisory levels.
Scope of the Model: I want to cover the full breadth and depth of recreational diving (OC Rec, OC Tech, CCR and Instruction) but this introduces a considerable number of variables which means it is more difficult to isolate the specific influencing factors. To focus on one area would make the task easier and manageable, but would not necessarily help the other areas of the community. I am not sure where to focus; recreational would likely have the greatest influence across diving, CCR would be the most interesting (and likely most complicated!) and Instructors may have implications for the organisations!
I am glad the review went well, but I know that I need to work out how to minimise the biases and variables to ensure that the final thesis is robust and defendable.
Thank you for all the support I have had over the last year or so, especially from Kate as she has put up with some long evenings with me glued to the computer typing and researching. Thanks to Gene Hobbs at the Rubicon Foundation for spurring me on and those conference organisers for allowing me to raise the profile of the work I am doing. Finally, thanks to the person behind the grant which provided me nearly £2000 of this year’s fees – your help and support is really appreciated.