Part 1: Reflections on the Profession

This first part of the book has six chapters, which present views on aspects of the state of the profession and discipline of human factors and ergonomics from various viewpoints. The key questions focus on the progress of the discipline and profession in achieving its aims, including “where did we come from?”, “where are we now?” and “where might we go?” The questions are examined from an applied point of view, considering the contribution of HF/E in work and life.

In Chapter 1, we consider the evolving identity and nature of HF/E as a discipline and profession. The diversity of HF/E is proposed as an outstanding feature, and several factors that help characterise HF/E in practice are outlined. Chapter 2 (Margo Fraser and David Caple) goes on to explore further the nature of HF/E, both in developing and developed countries. Issues of professional competency and the research-practice relationship are opened up for exploration.

This history of HF/E is important to understand where we are now, and why. Chapter 3 (Patrick Waterson) reflects on the development of HF/E over time and proposes some lessons for HF/E practice from the past and present, with some pointers to the future based on what we can learn from the past, by.

Chapter 4 (Erik Hollnagel) goes on to consider HF/E the beginnings of human factors as a solution to a practical problem, but that over time theories, methods and solutions increased that are intellectually attractive but with limited practical effects. Erik argues that human factors as a practical solution should be based on a small number of simple principles with a strong empirical foundation.

Chapter 5 (Roel van Winsen and Sidney Dekker) points out some practical and ethical implications of ‘human error’ (and its subcategories) as an explanation for why socio-technological systems sometimes fail. Roel and Sidney argue that as a human factors community we need to engage in ethical discussions and take responsibility for the effects of the practices that we promote.

Some of these issues are played out in the media. Taking an outside-in view, the media perspective on ‘human factors’ and ‘ergonomics’ is considered in Chapter 6 (Ron Gantt and Steven Shorrock). This chapter offers some proposals on this neglected area that may help minimise the negative consequences of media coverage, and take advantage of the rare positive effects.