Part 2: Fundamental issues for practitioners

This part considers some of the fundamental issues for practitioners of human factors and ergonomics, as well as others associated with HF/E. These issues concern practitioner roles and contexts, the research-practice relationship, tools and methods, and practitioner development.

The first two chapters consider the roles that HF/E practitioners (and others) may take on, and the types of of organisations in which practitioners are situated. Each of these roles and contexts has different implication for practice. Roles for HF/E specialists are explored in Chapter 7 (Claire Williams and Steven Shorrock). Practitioners may take on roles of content expert on the one hand, and process facilitator on the other, but practitioners may also shift between other more specific roles, such as ‘teacher’, ‘detective’, and ‘advocate’. Others associated with HF/E aims may also adopt certain roles. Such roles have implications for us and others, and the projects, organisation and wider context with which we engage. The organisation contexts within which we are embedded also affect our work profoundly. They include consultancies, producers, manufacturers, service providers, universities and research institutes, governments (including regulators) and inter-governmental organisations. Each of these may have economic, organisational, social and personal upsides and downsides. These are discussed in Chapter 8 (Steven Shorrock and Claire Williams) via interviews with 17 of the HF/E practitioners, all contributing authors to this book.

Chapters 9 and 10 go on to examine research-practice issues. Integrating research into practice is critical for maintaining competency; theory, models, concepts and methods change over time. But there are perceived barriers to the use of research for HF/E practitioners, and a research-practice gap in HF/E is a continuing concern in the discipline and profession. This is explored in Chapter 9 (Amy Chung, Ann Williamson and Steven Shorrock), via a review of the literature and a survey of over 600 HF/E specialists. The other side of this equation concerns doing practice-oriented research. Chapter 10 (Paul Salmon and Claire Williams) outlines the goals, demands, resources, methods, outputs, trade-offs, compromises and constraints of practice-oriented research with examples and advice for HF/E practice-oriented researchers.

Practitioners know, however, that there are complications and constraints in using the methods that often result from research, and from practice. Trade-offs and compromises are needed here too. These issues are explored in Chapter 11 (Matthew Trigg and Richard Sciafe).

But how does one develop as an HF/E practitioner? This issue is explored in Chapter 12 (Andrew Baird, Claire Williams and Alan Ferris), which considers the blend of knowledge, skills, abilities and other factors that are needed, from initial training though to ongoing training on the job, and the constraints and challenges to the various parties to this process.