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The Human Side of Cybersecurity Seminar Series: David Woods and Adaptive Systems


Thursday, January 21, 2021 
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST


Reframing the Cyber Crisis: Patterns in adaptive systems and design for continuous adaptability

Discover what the cyber world can learn from biology, social and other adaptive systems about how to adapt to changing situations and threats

The Human Side of Cybersecurity, the theme of CCI's Spring 2021 Seminar Series, kicks off with a discussion by David Woods, an integrated systems engineering professor at The Ohio State University. 

As an adaptive system, the world of cybersecurity is stuck, slow and stale to recognize and respond to rapidly changing relationships and threats. To make progress, the cyber world needs to take advantage of discoveries on the laws that govern adaptive systems of all types and at all scales. These advances have powered new capabilities to build adaptive capacity in layered networks of technology that provide valued services to human stakeholders. 

Resilience engineering integrates findings from biology, cognitive systems, nonlinear control, and human social systems. You’ll find many of the key characteristics of a difficult resilience engineering problem in the cyber world. Resilience engineering has been successful in developing responses to these difficulties through design for continuous adaptability.

Woods will reframe the cyber crisis in terms of how adaptive cycles spiral over time leading to the risk of adaptive system break down. He will cover how the adaptive cycles are simultaneously a story of people seeking advantage from new technological developments and a story of new technological capabilities producing effects far different from those imagined by its developers. The result is a continuing crisis with new forms of congestion, cascade and conflicts playing out in a new rivalry space with dramatic real-world consequences.

Woods will describe resilience engineering advances in critical digital services, and discuss whether these techniques for continuous adaptability can provide a model for tackling the current cyber crisis. 

About David Woods

David Woods, a Department of Integrated Systems Engineering professor at The Ohio State University, has worked to improve systems safety in high-risk complex settings for 40 years. The results of his work on how complex human-machine systems succeed and sometimes fail has been cited over 35,000 times.

He has studied human coordination with automated and intelligent systems and accident investigations in aviation, nuclear power, critical care medicine, crisis response, military operations, and space operations. He developed resilience engineering on the dangers of brittle systems and the need to invest in sustaining sources of resilience beginning in 2000-2003 as part of the response to several NASA accidents.

He developed the first comprehensive theory on how systems can build the potential for resilient performance despite complexity. Recently, he started the SNAFU Catchers Consortium an industry-university partnership to build resilience in critical digital services.

He is past-president of the Human Factors an Ergonomics Society and past-president of the Resilience Engineering Association. His long list of awards includes the Laurels Award from Aviation Week and Space Technology (1995), IBM Faculty Award, Google Faculty Award, Ely Best Paper Award and Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society, the Jimmy Doolittle Fellow Award from the Air Force Association (2012).

He has written or contributed to numerous books and advises government agencies as well as U.S. and international companies. He earned his Ph.D. from Purdue University.

Registration Information

Register here. If you have problems with registration, please contact Susie Kuliasha at

About CCI Events

With a mission of research, innovation, and workforce development, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI) focuses on the intersection of security, autonomous systems, and data. Funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia, CCI is a highly connected statewide network that engages institutions of higher education, industry, government, and nongovernmental and economic development organizations. CCI’s network includes 39 higher education institutions and 320 faculty members as well as more than 20 industry partners. CCI was established in the 2018-20 Virginia budget with an investment of approximately $20 million annually from 2020 and beyond. Follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Thanks for your interest! Please contact Kendall Beebe at to get involved.

Please email Kendall Beebe at

CCI posted a recording of the webinar, which you can watch on CCI’s YouTube channel.