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I am a social psychologist specialising in how organisations achieve high levels of safety, reliability and resilience. My professional career spans research, policy, regulation and practice in a variety of safety-critical and high-risk industries. I regularly advise organisations and policymakers on challenging safety, risk and improvement issues. 

Previously I have held posts including Special Advisor at the NHS National Patient Safety Agency, Health Foundation Improvement Science Fellow and Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College London and Senior Research Fellow in Improvement Science at University of Leicester medical school. 

I have also worked in the regulatory risk group of an investment bank, held ESRC fellowships at the London School of Economics, visiting posts at Stanford University and University of California San Francisco and remain a Research Associate at the LSE Centre for Analysis of Risk and Regulation. I also serve on the Editorial Board of Safety Science


Twitter: @CarlMacrae

Carl Macrae

PhD CPsychol

Senior Research Fellow

Risk, safety and resilience in complex systems

Research Summary


My research is concerned with how organisations achieve high levels of safety, reliability and resilience. I am committed to delivering innovative interdisciplinary research with real world impact. My work spans all complex high-consequence industries but has primarily focused on aviation and healthcare. 

My programme of research is particularly concerned with three interrelated issues:

  • how safety improvements are initiated, interpreted, organised and measured
  • how organisations respond to disruptions, manage risk, investigate incidents and learn from error
  • how organisational and regulatory systems can be designed to support innovation, adaptation and improvement. 

My recent book, Close Calls, examines the work of airline flight safety investigators and the cognitive processes and sensemaking strategies that are used to analyse 'near-miss' incidents and identify and address the early signs of emerging risks. 


My research has directly led to the establishment of the first national independent safety investigation body for healthcare. Following my initial proposal, in 2014 I co-authored the paper, "Learning from Failure: the need for independent safety investigation in healthcare", with Prof Charles Vincent that set out the case for an independent patient safety investigation agency. That paper featured in the national press and helped prompt the Public Administration Select Committee inquiry into NHS safety investigation that recommended an independent patient safety investigator be established. This recommendation was accepted by the Government and led to the creation of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch. I was appointed as Specialist Advisor to the Select Committee inquiry and was a member of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch Expert Advisory Group. 


My book, Close Calls, has been shortlisted for the 2017 British Psychological Society Book Awards in the Academic Monograph category. I have been awarded the Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica lecture prize (2014), British Psychological Society Qualitative Methods in Psychology early career award (2010-11), and British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology student award (1st Prize 2003-4) for my research. I was also part of the team that won 3rd prize in the inaugural AIHI-RHCN International Prize in Resilience Health Care, with Cathy Winter and Tim Draycott (2016). 

My work has been supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Health Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. 

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Key publications


Recent publications

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