Defining Ergonomics/Human Factors
Pages 4

There appears to be a growing consensus that human factors and ergonomics (HF/E) refer essentially to a common body of knowledge. Despite this confluence, the discipline still suffers from a lack of name recognition. Most persons of the lay public, business, government, and academics generally do not have much of an idea what the field is all about. Most individuals have little problem understanding established areas like physics, chemistry, mathematics, and astronomy, probably because they have a basis in school curricula. The relatively new field of psychology, which is about 100 years old, has become so well recognized that many high schools now offer courses in it. HF/E has not reached this level of exposure. In fact, exposure to the field is rather scant even in colleges and universities. Martin and Wogalter (1997) examined the availability of HF/E courses to college students in the United States. Fifty schools were selected randomly from each of four categories of universities and colleges (research, doctoral, masters, and baccalaureate/liberal arts) from a listing of four-year colleges and universities in the United States. Only 2% (one school) in the sample of

liberal arts colleges and only 10% of the master’s universities had a course in HF/E. Of the doctoral institutions, 62% had not a single HF/E course, and 44% of the research institutions had no HF/E courses. Other than a brief mention in a back chapter of an introductory psychology text book or of an industrial/organizational psychology text book, most college students have virtually no (or at best, scant) opportunity to learn about the field. This is particularly true if the university does not have an Industrial/Systems Engineering Department. Although Industrial Engineering Departments are the primary source of ergonomics research and teaching in the occupational ergonomics subspecialty, and the cognitive ergonomics subspecialty in some departments, not all Industrial Engineering Departments in the US have an ergonomics curriculum. This is one of the problems of not being considered a unique field by colleges and universities — the role of education and research is left to other departments that may or may not have a vested interest.