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Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

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About HFES

HFES History

The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society is an interdisciplinary nonprofit organization of professional people who are involved in the human factors field. The Society promotes the discovery and exchange of knowledge concerning the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices of all kinds. It furthers serious consideration of such knowledge in the assignment of appropriate functions for humans and machines, whether people serve as operators, maintainers, or users in the system. It advocates systematic use of such knowledge to achieve compatibility in the design of interactive systems of people, machines, and environments to ensure their effectiveness, safety, and ease of performance. The Society encourages appropriate education and training for those entering the human factors profession and for those who conceive, design, develop, manufacture, test, manage, and participate in systems. The purpose inherent in human factors research and application is to contribute to overall human well-being.

Human factors concerns emerged during World War II as a result of the work and experience of a number of specialists involved in the study of then-current manned systems. These systems included those operating on the Earth's surface, under the sea, and in space. Human factors studies were made of

  • systems performance
  • problems encountered in information presentation, detection, and recognition
  • related action controls
  • workspace arrangement, and
  • skills required.

Research in these areas ensued, with particular emphasis on human operations. This offered the opportunity for early improvements in performance and safety, as significant modifications of equipment were unlikely under wartime circumstances. Attention was focused on operations analysis, operator selection, training, and the environment associated with signal detection and recognition, communication, and vehicle control. Concurrently, human factors work in industry was focused on efficiency, task analysis, and time-and-motion studies.

With the coming of peace, human factors activity was broadened to include systems design more completely. As a result, human factors requirements were incorporated into government phased-procurement contracts with industry. This led to the utilization of human factors specialists by industry and gradually resulted in their involvement in nonmilitary systems and equipment. In the decades that followed, human factors has continued to broaden its area of concern and activity to include transportation, architecture, environmental design, consumer products, electronics/computers, energy systems, medical devices, manufacturing, office automation, organizational design and management, aging, farming, health, sports and recreation, oil field operations, mining, forensics, education, and speech synthesis. In the same period, more than 75 human factors undergraduate and graduate study programs have been organized in universities and colleges in the United States and thousands of human factors positions created in industry, business, service, government, and education. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society sponsors meetings and publications to promote the exchange of knowledge, to advance human factors education and programs, and to strengthen relationships among members and supporters. An annual meeting is held each fall. It includes a technical program consisting of research reports, panel discussions, and workshops; a business meeting; exhibits; an awards ceremony and banquet; and tours of local facilities of interest.

The bimonthly journal Human Factors presents original papers of scientific merit that contribute to the understanding of human factors and advance the systematic consideration of human factors. It features articles on methodology and procedures, literature reviews, technical research results of broad scope, articles on research applications, and papers of general professional interest.

A new quarterly journal, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, focuses on research that seeks to understand how people engage in cognitive work in real-world settings and on the development of systems that support that work.

The monthly Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Bulletin features timely news of conferences, elections, publications, employment opportunities, and local chapter and technical group activities; editorials; and other items of interest to human factors practitioners.

The quarterly magazine, Ergonomics in Design, contains articles that describe applications of human factors research in a variety of areas. It also contains book and product reviews, interviews, and commentary.

The annual Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Directory and Yearbook provides biographical and geographical listings of members. It includes a summary of activities and a list of officers for the Society and each of its chapters and technical groups. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society has chapters in the United States, Canada, and Europe, which sponsor local meetings and publications. Chapters maintain dues separately from the Society and serve the local interests of their members. The Society also has student chapters.

The Society's technical groups each focus on a particular aspect of the human factors field. The technical groups also hold meetings, sponsor symposia and conferences, publish newsletters and proceedings, and sponsor technical sessions at the HFES Annual Meeting. The Society's administrative and publications offices are located in Santa Monica, California. During World War II and the years following, the number of scientific and technical people working in the human factors field grew, and many felt the need for a society to provide a medium for the exchange of professional information and ideas. Such a society could also promote the integration of methodologies and data from the various disciplines contributing to the solution of human factors problems.

Planning activity for the Society began in 1955 in Southern California by a joint committee representing the Aeromedical Engineering Association of Los Angeles and the Human Engineering Society of San Diego. The committee, consisting of Arnold Small (chair), Donald Conover, Donald Hanifan, Stanley Lippert, Laurence Morehouse, John Poppin, and Wesley Woodson, represented the fields of psychology, physiology, engineering, and medicine. They were involved in human factors work in industry, universities, and government laboratories. The formal concept for and features of a human factors organization were developed by a founding committee in 1956 and approved at a joint meeting of the two local organizations. During the next year members of the committee, working on individual assignments and meeting several times as a whole in Laguna Beach, California, drew up complete plans for a national society. They were assisted by Paul Fitts, Jesse Orlansky, and Max Lund. The committee members and plans served as the organizational framework for the founding of the Society, with its Constitutional Convention and First National Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 25, 1957. That meeting was held in conjunction with the Fifth Annual Human Engineering Conference of the Office of Naval Research, which had served as an additional influence leading to a national society.

There were about 90 persons at the 1957 meeting. Three months later, the membership passed the 200 mark. The membership reached 500 in 1960 and exceeded 1,000 in 1962. Between 1962 and 1969 the growth rate averaged about 5% per year. During 1969 and 1970 the number of members remained stable at approximately 1600. During 1971, the membership dropped to about 1,500, but steady growth occurred during the balance of the 1970s. During the 1980s membership doubled. It now stands at more than 4500. The Society was originally incorporated in 1957 as the Human Factors Society of America. The name was subsequently changed to The Human Factors Society, Inc., to reflect the international character of its membership. In 1992 the name was again changed to the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. The Society was granted its present nonprofit status by the Internal Revenue Service in 1964.

The San Diego Human Engineering Society and the Aeromedical Engineering Association of Los Angeles, which predate the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, became its first two local chapters. Both claim to be the first local chapters of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Initially, business affairs were handled solely by the officers, first in Los Angeles and later in Arlington, Virginia. A publications office was established at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the early 1960s these functions were consolidated in a central office in Santa Monica, California, which continues to provide the administrative, financial, and publications services essential to the Society's operational efficiency.

Since 1958, the Society has published two major periodicals: the journal, Human Factors, and the news publication, HFES Bulletin. The HFES Directory & Yearbook has been published since 1959. Proceedings of the HFES Annual Meeting have been published since 1972. Beginning in 1993, the Society published Ergonomics in Design, a magazine describing applications of human factors research. In 2007, a new journal, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, was published. The Society has also published special items, such as the American National Standard for Human Factors Engineering of Visual Display Terminal Workstations (updated in 2002 as Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations), the Directory of Human Factors Graduate Programs in the United States and Canada, and the Directory of Human Factors/Ergonomics Consultants. The video "Human Factors Success Stories" is available for purchase or rent from the central office. The first in a series of monographs on selected topics was published in early 1995, entitled Anthropometric Methods: Designing to Fit the Human Body by John A. Roebuck, Jr. The annual series Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics began publication in 2006, and there are now six published volumes.

In a partnership with SAGE Publications, the Society offers an online collection of every published article from Human Factors, Ergonomics in Design, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics, and the Annual Meeting proceedings from their first issue/volume. (See more publications.)

To date, 55 annual meetings have been held throughout the United States. In recent years the Society has sponsored special meetings and symposia with other professional groups and universities. HFES is affiliated with the International Ergonomics Association and many other professional organizations.

HFES now has 67 active chapters throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, 42 of them student chapters. The Society's technical groups now number 23.

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