ers are conducting experiments in these environments to investigate how certain variables affect human performance.
Human factors professionals should prepare to meet the growing need for tools and processes that can help designers visualize how new devices will look, rapidly produce and improve prototypes, and refine devices based on user needs.
The workshop raised several issues—including some fundamental questions about the nature of the field of human factors—that could not be covered in the time available. They are certain to be the subjects of continuing discussion as the role of human factors in industry and government expands.
If our user community is satisfied with some deliverables, with some regular pace of useful products, we will have established credibility with them. And they will say: You have delivered in the past, maybe we should just go ahead and let you do this basic science because we don't want to eat the seed corn.
The current climate has made it difficult to balance the need for basic research with high demands for applied activities. Perplexing questions remain, with no clear consensus among human factors experts. Is the primary function of human factors to conduct new research or support design? What is the right balance between short-term and long-term needs? Can the same people who fight fires also prevent them; in other words, should the experts who deal with immediate, urgent problems in work settings also conduct basic research, or should people specialize in one or the other?
In the past, the federal government has provided incentives for basic research, but government, like industry, is now moving toward a product orientation. The Navy, for example, no longer wants to invest in research with a 20-year timeline. University researchers in human factors continue to do basic research, but they, too, are becoming more dependent on outside funding.
The field of human factors must take steps to ensure that basic research continues to receive attention and funding. One recommendation—a somewhat controversial idea—is to place both basic research and applied functions within a single organizational unit of a company or agency. Some feel that this encourages constant cross-pollination between basic researchers and applied engineers and ties basic research to real-world problems in need of solutions. This arrangement can also provide higher visibility and additional funding options for