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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey 6— Conclusions and Recommendations The results of the two surveys described in the report have led the panel to make 2 general conclusions and 11 recommendations. These conclusions and recommendations are based on findings related to the principal objectives of the study: to recommend improvements in job definition and in the education and training of human factors specialists and to assess the match between the future supply and demand of human factors specialists. CONCLUSIONS Specific findings and some of their implications have already been presented in Chapters 3, 4, and 5. Two general conclusions can be drawn from these results. Job Definition Approximately 83 percent of human factors work currently centers in six areas: computers, aerospace, industrial processes, health and safety, communications, and transportation. The remaining 17 percent of the sample reported working in a wide variety of other areas. Considering the large number of these other areas, many of which were reported by only one or a few persons, the potential for more widespread application of human factors expertise may be great. Most specialists report that the promotion of human factors is a major function of their current job, yet only about 40 percent of those doing human factors work identified themselves directly with the human factors
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey profession. The others identified themselves with more traditional disciplines such as psychology and engineering. This finding suggests that, given the diverse backgrounds of people working in the field, a problem may exist in designing academic curricula and in developing certification programs for human factors specialists. Skills and Knowledge Different areas of human factors work emphasize different tasks and consequently require different skills and knowledge. Relatively few skills are emphasized consistently across the various areas of work. This state of affairs presents further difficulties in the design of university curricula, inasmuch as one primary curriculum is not suitable for training all human factors specialists. A defined set of core courses to which other electives can be added to meet specific educational objectives is one approach to the solution of this heterogeneity problem. Additional implications for training stem from findings that human factors specialists need, but are not getting, adequate training in supervisory skills and that a large proportion of supervisors of human factors specialists lack adequate knowledge of the area. Furthermore, formal education was found to emphasize theoretical issues and laboratory research while evaluation studies were emphasized in the workplace. RECOMMENDATIONS The panel makes the following recommendations to enhance the development and utilization of human factors specialists and to match the supply of specialists with the demand for them. Emphasize interdisciplinary training. Human factors work requires an extensive amount of coordination and communication among disciplines. Success in system integration, for example, requires that both engineering and psychological issues be addressed. More opportunities for training across disciplines should be provided to ensure that specialists have the appreciation and understanding required. These opportunities might take such forms as interdepartmental symposia, continuing short education and training courses and workshops inside and outside academia, and improved university-industry internships. Base graduate training around a core curriculum. Specialists reported the need for a wide range of different types of knowledge and skills. Moreover, they reported that many of these subjects were not well covered in current programs of formal education. One promising ap
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey proach to the solution of this problem is the development of a core curriculum. The core could be designed to provide essential human factors knowledge and skills and to be augmented by other courses to meet specific educational objectives. To keep both the core and the pool of specialized courses linked to the needs of specialists, more direct ongoing mechanisms for obtaining feedback from employers should be developed and instituted. A variety of mechanisms—such as periodic interviews with or surveys of local employers of the human factors specialists who have graduated from a university program—should be explored. Provide supervisory training. Human factors specialists reported that they were not well prepared for supervisory responsibilities. There is little doubt that training is needed for the development of skills, knowledge, and abilities in support of supervisory tasks. However, because most of the current graduate education programs in human factors are now filled to capacity with required technical courses, it may be necessary to provide this management training through postgraduate continuing education, company in-service training, or one or more short courses in management and supervision offered throughout the year by various private organizations. Encourage graduate internship programs. There appears to be insufficient student contact and direct experience with business and government work during graduate education programs. This is so despite opportunities that exist for university faculty to use their industrial consulting experience as a means of exposing graduate students to real-world problems. Even though some graduate programs require student internships and some companies have established formal internship programs, these activities need to be expanded. In addition, ways to improve current internships should be studied. To encourage more student participation and more university interest, the feasibility of tying internships more directly to thesis and dissertation research requirements should be explored. Program faculty engaged in industry consulting should explore linking student internships with their consulting efforts. Employers seeking interns should consult with faculty to identify programs and procedures that will lead to meaningful experiences for interns and will benefit their part-time employers. Develop graduate traineeship programs. Most graduate training programs are not directly involved in the types of system integration activities required by industry and government. Instead, graduate courses tend to emphasize theory, methods, content, and laboratory research rather than user-centered design application. Study is
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey required to define the correct emphasis on theory and laboratory research in human factors education. One procedure for encouraging a more applications-oriented program is to establish traineeships that are directed specifically to educating human factors specialists. These traineeships need to provide funding for graduate student stipends, necessary staff support, equipment and materials, and direct ties to government and industry laboratories involved in system integration activities. Links between the theory orientation of graduate programs and the practical issues associated with user-centered design should be strengthened. This might be accomplished, for example, by emphasis in the traineeship on the relationship between the computational models used to make a system a prototype in industry and the theories of human functioning from which such a computational model might be derived. Focus research support on human factors problems. One dilemma in interdisciplinary areas such as human factors is that applied problems are often approached from traditional academic perspectives, such as psychology, industrial engineering, computer science, and physiology, rather than from an interdisciplinary perspective. Now that human factors graduate programs and user-centered design approaches in government and industry are well established, significant advances in science and application are possible. Research should be focused directly on interdisciplinary human factors problems and not used to support traditional disciplinary approaches and traditional values. This requires funding to be defined specifically for human factors, administered by human factors specialists, and conducted by human factors professionals. Evaluate the availability of human factors specialists. Several survey results make it difficult to make conclusions about availability. Many specialists have worked a relatively short time on the job. About 30 percent of the sample were doing half of their work for the military, which implies a relatively elastic pool of expertise to expand military system integration considerations. Approximately 40 percent of the sample did not identify themselves directly as human factors professionals, which makes certification and licensing difficult. Consequently, further evaluation is needed on the availability of specialists. Promote the profession among women and racial minorities. The results of this survey show that women and racial minorities are underrepresented in the human factors field. In addition, there appear to be inequities in salaries of male and female human factors specialists. Employers need to be sensitive to these differences and to track them over time in order to assess the adequacy of steps needed to eliminate inequalities.
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Human Factors Specialists' Education and Utilization: Results of a Survey Programs established by professional societies, industry, and government agencies to increase the number of qualified women and minority human factors specialists should be encouraged and supported. Facilitate the promotion of human factors integration. One of the major findings of this study is the lack of human factors knowledge among supervisors of system integration activities. Increased awareness among supervisors is needed, and programs to increase this awareness should be initiated. Promotion of human factors application is a major job function of the specialist. Programs initiated by universities, industry, and government agencies to promote the application of human factors are needed to expand interest in user-centered design. Extend human factors applications to new areas. Given the finding that 83 percent of current human factors activity is confined to just six areas, many opportunities exist for the expansion of human factors to new areas of application. Several promising areas of extension stem from societal needs that require a new emphasis on the application of technology to human use. Efforts need to be initiated to determine and promote the most promising areas of extension. Maintain a survey data base to track trends in human factors. Although other surveys have been made of human factors specialists by the Human Factors Society and other organizations, to our knowledge this was the first comprehensive, scientifically based sample survey of the education and utilization of human factors specialists. Now that a data base of survey findings is available and accessible, it is possible for university, industry, and government agencies to carry out additional analyses for policy-making activities. Periodic follow-up surveys should be conducted and the results integrated with the data base established in the course of this study. In this way, trends in the utilization and training of specialists can be assessed. The findings, conclusions, recommendations, and policies resulting from these trend analyses should be of ultimate benefit in the harnessing and improvement of technology for human use.
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