Technology is an integral part of modern life. People interact with technology everyday in automobiles, airplanes, boats, banks, supermarkets, industrial plants, schools, hospitals, military systems, homes, and numerous other places. Unfortunately, people have been frustrated, injured, and killed by technical devices that have been incompatible with their human capabilities and limitations or by systems that just perform poorly. The role of human factors specialists is to overcome these problems by emphasizing and effecting people-oriented design that keeps the human user, rather than technology, central to the design process.
What is a human factors specialist? Where and how are they educated and trained? Where do they work and what do they do? Does the education and training of these specialists meet the needs of their employers? These are the questions addressed in this report.
The Human Factors Specialist
The definition of a professional charged with overseeing this people-oriented design philosophy varies. The term Human Factors Specialist has been selected by the panel from a large number of possible terms to name this profession. Recently, Licht, Polzella, and Boff (1989) reviewed 74 definitions of this specialty from 400 references. Terms such as anthropometrics, applied ergonomics, applied experimental psychology, biomechanics, biotechnology, engineering psychology, ergonomics, human engineering, human factors, human factors engineering, human factors psychology, human
performance engineering, industrial ergonomics, and psychotechnology were used. The three most prevalent terms included human factors, human factors engineering, and ergonomics. Although these terms are often interchangeable, in the United States human factors tends to be the broadest category; human factors engineering tends to emphasize design; and ergonomics tends to be concerned with people at work.
For the purposes of this study, the individual of interest is referred to as a human factors specialist. This specialist is an individual who is concerned primarily with the performance of one or more persons in a task-oriented environment interacting with equipment, other people, or both.
Origins of the Study
In response to a request from the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, the National Research Council, through the Commission on the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, under-took a study to determine the nature and prevalence of the skills required of human factors specialists when they enter the industrial work force. Despite the rapid rise in the number of degree programs, senior management personnel in the Department of Defense (DoD) concerned with the system acquisition process anticipate that the demand for qualified human factors specialists who can function at the design level may exceed the available supply, leading to shortages in industry at the lower-and mid-career levels. A shortage of design-oriented human factors specialists could have a negative impact on system performance, since the application of human factors principles and methods in all system domains (design, maintenance, operation, etc.) is deemed essential to improve the efficiency of these systems.
The Army Research Institute requested that a panel of the Committee on Human Factors be established to determine the extent and nature of the needs of major industrial organizations for human factors specialists and the relationship between their needs and the human factors curricula taught by universities. To do this, a survey was undertaken (1) to identify and describe the tasks performed by human factors specialists in selected industries in the design, development, production, maintenance, training, and operation of complex military and nonmilitary systems and of consumer products used in and around the home, at play, and at work and (2) to identify the extent to which universities educate students in human factors to perform these tasks. Data collection occurred in 1989; data analysis was completed in 1991.
Two recent trends underscored the need for this study. First, the major U.S. professional society of human factors specialists, the Human Factors Society, has demonstrated steady growth in membership and activity
during the last decade. According to its 1990 directory, the society's membership had increased approximately 150 percent over the previous 10-year period, to a current level of 3,904 members. In the latest directory of graduate training programs in human factors, Sanders and Smith (1988) listed 59 U.S. programs, located in a variety of academic departments, including a relatively even split between behavioral and social science pro-grams and engineering programs. The curricula in these programs are often interdisciplinary, changing, and quite varied. Periodically, the membership of the Human Factors Society is surveyed in terms of educational background, area of employment, professional activities, and salary (Sanders, 1985). These surveys, however, have been limited to members and, prior to 1991, had not been conducted since 1985. Nonetheless, the growth in the society's membership and the educational background of members are critical indicators of the supply of human factors specialists.
Second, there is growing emphasis on system integration among government agencies involved in the development and procurement of highly technical, people-oriented systems. Chief among these activities was the Manpower and Personnel Integration (MANPRINT) program developed during the 1980s. MANPRINT is a major military system procurement initiative adopted by the Army to focus on the needs and capabilities of the soldier. This program is unique in that it integrates six areas of user concern throughout the development cycle of Army matériel, including human factors engineering, manpower, personnel, training, health hazards, and system safety (Booher, 1990). At this writing, the MANPRINT pro-gram has not yet been enforced in all areas of system procurement.
Table 1.1 summarizes some of the technical considerations in each of the six major areas of MANPRINT. Muckler and Seven (1990) conclude that, although no single professional area covers all the considerations of MANPRINT, the human factors specialist comes closest to having the most comprehensive technical background. Interestingly, they point out that the topics related to the manpower area shown in the table are not well covered either in the human factors textbooks or in existing human factors graduate training programs. Muckler and Seven conclude that the establishment of centers of excellence in graduate training as well as appropriate licensing and certification are needed to improve the background of the human factors specialist for MANPRINT.
Similar approaches to MANPRINT are being used in other military services. The Hardware Versus Manpower (HARDMAN) program in the Navy, the Integrated Manpower, Personnel, and Comprehensive Training/ Safety (IMPACTS) program in the Air Force, and the Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Safety (MPTS) concept in DoD each represent a user-oriented design and acquisition approach. In addition, the United Kingdom has initiated MANPRINT-related activities in the Ministry of
TABLE 1.1 Technical Considerations in the Six Major Areas of MANPRINT
Human factors engineering
Psychological and physiological capabilities and limitations
Mission, function, and task analysis
Anthropometric and biometric criteria
Display-control task design
Workspace requirements and design
Human resources system predictions
Skills, knowledge, and abilities (SKA)
Personnel quality and performance prediction
Motivation, incentives, and performance
Human learning and transfer of training
Training requirements and needs analysis
Instructional system design
Training media and devices
Training system evaluation
System reliability analysis
Human error analysis
System safety planning
Environmental stressors identification
Psychological stressors identification
Designing for health and safety
Personal protection and equipment
Controlling workplace hazards
Product reliability and liability
Source: Adapted from Muckler and Seven (1990). Copyright © 1990 by Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Defense, the Royal Navy, military laboratories, defense schools, and British industry.
Awareness of MANPRINT is growing rapidly. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration is interested in these activities as a means of improving aviation safety and air traffic control. Likewise, MANPRINT considerations also have been discussed in connection with nuclear safety and advanced manufacturing. Current events, such as the reduction in ten
sions between East and West and the increased tension in the Mideast due to Desert Storm, make it difficult to assess the current validity of survey estimates of the personnel needed to work on MANPRINT-like military programs.
Extension of the MANPRINT philosophy to other application areas can easily offset the possible reduction in military programs. Examples include the rapid growth in demand for specialists in human-computer interaction and recent interest in human factors issues associated with the aging population and with the use of increasingly complex medical technologies and devices. Even in the military, new human factors problems may arise whether the services are downsized or increased. In such areas, training may be needed to overcome rapid technological obsolescence. All of these activities, however, result in an increased demand for the services of human factors specialists.
However, the U.S. Army is currently facing very large reductions in force. The resulting threat to the human factors community, like many others, is that it is likely to receive at least a proportional cut in resources, even though many indicators suggest that the demand for human-centered research and development is increasing. This situation results from increased reliance on automation, which in turn leads to the logic for increasing the funding of human factors research and development resources; doing so makes it possible to decrease systems' manpower and associated life-cycle costs while maintaining the same, if not increased, levels of military readiness. Manpower is one of the most costly resources of the military; the human factors community can provide decision aids to policy makers to help them make manpower cuts where they will have the least damaging impact.
On the basis of these trends, a variety of questions dealing with the education and utilization of human factors specialists need to be addressed:
Skill Requirements. What tasks do human factors specialists currently perform relevant to the design, development, production, maintenance, and operation of consumer products and military systems? What skills and knowledge are required by human factors personnel in order to contribute effectively to the design, development, training, and evaluation of complex systems and operational procedures and to the development of training programs?
Qualifications. To what extent are the human factors courses and pro
grams in universities congruent with the task requirements in industry in the behavioral (e.g., cognitive, sensory, learning, performance, social), engineering (e.g., computer science, engineering and industrial design), physiological (e.g., strength, biomedicine, neurophysiology), and interdisciplinary domains? Is there a disparity between job requirements and current education programs? Are human factors specialists receiving the type of analytical skills and training needed so that they may adapt appropriately to future requirements?
Training Curricula. How qualified are recent graduates? How extensive are on-the-job training requirements for newly hired graduates? Can postgraduation learning time be reduced without compromising performance? Are modifications or redirection needed for the mode of education or curricula to enhance the contributions of human factors specialists in the industrial environment?
Supply and Demand. What is the number of students currently being trained in human factors, and what is the projection for the future? Is the supply of faculty in the various fields adequate to meet current and future needs? Are qualified minorities and women being attracted to careers as human factors specialists and faculty?
Actions. What actions can governmental and private organizations take to ensure an adequate supply of human factors specialists and faculty? How can these actions be enhanced?
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
Reliable information is needed in order to address the various issues related to the education and utilization of human factors specialists. The panel used the results of surveys of human factors specialists and education institutions as the bases for its discussion and conclusions. Its overall objective was to recommend improvements for the education, training, and utilization of human factors specialists in four areas:
Job Definition. Define the jobs and tasks performed by human factors specialists involved in the design, development, production, maintenance, operation, and supportability of integrated systems.
Skills and Knowledge. Identify the knowledge and skill requirements of human factors specialists.
Education. Evaluate the extent to which human factors education and training currently satisfies the needs of industry and government.
Supply and Demand. Assess and project the demand and supply for qualified human factors specialists.
ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
Chapter 2 describes the method used to sample and survey the human factors community using both a mail-in questionnaire and a computer-aided telephone interview technique. The mail-in questionnaire was used to survey the directors of educational programs in human factors. The CATI technique was used to survey human factors specialists and their managers. Appointments were made to contact sampled individuals for subsequent telephone interviews. Branching points were built into the protocol logic to cue the telephone interviewer as to what questions to ask next depending on the respondent's answer to the previous question.
Categories of questions used in surveying the human factors specialist covered the employment setting, education and training received, work activities performed, methods and tools used, degree fields, career problems, and salary information. Supervisors were asked to project their needs for human factors professionals and the degree to which current human factors employees are proficient in the knowledge, methods, and tools required by the job. Directors of graduate education programs were asked to describe their curricula and the relative emphasis given to specific topics. The surveys used in this study are reproduced in Appendices A and B.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 summarize the major results of the surveys. Chapter 3 deals with the characteristics and use of human factors specialists. A profile of the human factors specialist is presented in terms of the work setting, the role of human factors in that setting, the nature of supervision and interactions with others, personal characteristics of the specialist, and the specific tasks performed by human factors professionals.
Chapter 4 presents survey results pertaining to the education and training in human factors. The scope of educational experiences in terms of a profile of required skills is provided; the quality and importance of educational topics are assessed; and a summary description of the general nature of existing graduate education programs in terms of curricula, faculty, and facilities is presented. Supplementary training programs that allow the human factors specialist to remain current in the field are described.
A data base of the complete survey results are available to the reader for further analyses through the Department of Defense Crew System Ergonomics Information Analysis Center (CSERIAC) operated by the U.S. Air Force Armstrong Laboratory under contract to the University of Dayton. A description of this data base and procedures for accessing these data from CSERIAC are described in Appendix C.
Chapter 5 addresses some of the implications of this study that deal directly with career progression as well as the supply and demand of human factors professionals. Projections of supply are based on the educators' estimates; estimates of demand are based on the supervisors,' estimates.
Finally, Chapter 6 summarizes the overall findings and recommendations of the study panel. Two major conclusions are discussed in terms of the job description and the required skills and knowledge of the human factors specialist. The report concludes with 11 general recommendations concerning the supply and demand of human factors specialists and the improvement of human factors education. These recommendations deal with the academic specialty, educational curriculum, supervisory training, graduate internships, graduate traineeships, research opportunities, availability of specialists, women and minority representation, awareness of human factors, areas of application, and future trends.