Published in ‘The Ergonomist’, Newsletter of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors, October 2012, p. 4
In September’s The Ergonomist, the President of the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors asked whether the IEHF should become more of a campaigning organisation. Assuming that we want to be a relevant organisation, then the answer must be ‘yes’. While we have many interesting research findings and effective applications, we rarely seem to communicate our impact in the world.It is a sad state of affairs that the ‘impact’ of publicly-funded research is judged primarily by the citation of journal articles by one’s fellow researchers and oneself. It is equally sad that we have so few press releases, white papers, blogs or videos of our impactful theories, findings or applications. We seem to put most effort into forms of communication that are least visible to policy makers, decision makers and the public. Perhaps this is why we are still too anonymous to the wider world.We cannot be content with only writing to each other via Old Media or speaking to each other in closed conferences if we want to make a visible difference. The research article or technical report should not be the end of the line for any of us. If we think that our discipline is important, then we need to to be confident and decisive in our messages and campaigns, and clever in how we convey them.It is great to see that our engagement with social media is growing (e.g. LinkedIn, twitter) and that we have had recent public exhibitions. But we need more involvement. We need to be prolific not in how much we write, but in the effectiveness of our communication with decision makers, those affected by our work, and the world at large. We need to put more effort into the usability of our communication with the world. Think WordPress, Blogger, twitter, pinterest, Google+, flickr, picaso, Amazon, LinkedIn, Experience Project, e-petitions…as well as letters, magazines, and face-to-face, of course. None of us has ‘time’ for this, except the time that we prioritise for it. As Jon mentioned, raising awareness isn’t just a job for the IEHF. It is for all of us to ensure that our research and practice remains relevant to the world and has broad impact.