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basic research. A human factors division that delivers successful products may have a wider latitude from its users or funders to conduct basic science.

Regardless of how divisions are organized, human factors professionals who focus on the applied side can still contribute to and advocate for basic research. For example, human factors engineers who are struggling with a particular dilemma could request basic research—or do it themselves. Some experts also view "action research"—research that tries to solve problems identified by clients—as a middle ground between basic and applied research. Action research can produce new knowledge and keep the discipline on the cutting edge.

Organizationally, some professionals contend that having a separate identity within an organization does not really matter, as long as human factors has sufficient funding and authority. Others believe that without a strong disciplinary identity, expertise and funding might disappear over time.

Finally, as with any research-oriented field, human factors efforts do not always succeed. Even with good design, procedures, and training, some products and processes do not work as intended. Although errors can serve as a pathway to scientific discovery, innovation, and creative solutions, the current climate of user satisfaction tends to discourage investigation of fruitful errors.

What can be done to ensure that human factors professionals learn from their mistakes? How can managers at all levels create work environments in which errors are not the focus of blame as much as the source of creative scientific thinking?



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