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HFES Bulletin

August 2010
Volume 53, Number 8

Public Policy Matters

The Value of FABBS for HFES

By Douglas Griffith, HFES Representative to FABBS

     I am frequently frustrated by the need to explain to people what we in human factors/ergonomics do, despite the yeoman efforts of HFES to communicate to the public the existence and value of our work. We are not alone in this relative obscurity. Most, if not all, of the other constituent professional organizations of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) face the same problem. So FABBS is addressing a very large need.

     Here is the mission statement of FABBS: "The Federation promotes human potential and well-being by advancing the sciences of mind, brain, and behavior. As a coalition of scientific societies, we communicate with policy makers and the public about the importance and contributions of basic and applied research in these sciences." FABBS is a dues-supported coalition of member organizations and academic and corporate affiliates. It represents the interests of scientists who conduct research in mind, brain, and behavior sciences, focusing efforts on advocacy, education, and the communication of information to scientists.

     An immediate objective of FABBS is to foster the recognition of its member organizations as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. STEM disciplines are definitely "hot." They are recognized as being essential to economic development, in particular, and to the well-being of the country, in general. There is widespread agreement that STEM disciplines should be heavily funded. The problem is that HFES and other professional organizations represented in FABBS are not recognized as STEM disciplines by everyone. Some regard our work as "soft" and not as hard-nosed and rigorous as "true" STEM disciplines. This might seem ridiculous to us. Indeed, we might argue that in today's world, HF/E is even more relevant than the older STEM disciplines. We need to make this argument, and FABBS helps us in this regard.

     FABBS advocates before Congress, the executive branch, and federal agencies for fiscal and policy alternatives that are beneficial to behavioral science and its applications. Some of this advocacy takes place publicly, via events such as Science Policy Briefings. When needed, FABBS writes letters to government officials. Its staff members visit congressional offices and federal agencies, and representatives from FABBS organizations work on ad hoc committees of special relevance. FABBS interfaces directly with the Outreach Division of HFES.

     We human factors/ergonomics professionals tend to remain narrowly focused on our own work in our own discipline. One of the objectives of FABBS is to communicate information to scientists; that is, to communicate information among the disciplines represented by FABBS. Being more aware of other, possibly related, research allows us to expand our knowledge and reach into new applications.

     I do not regard my responsibilities as the Society's liaison to FABBS as particularly onerous. Although I remain in contact with FABBS throughout the year, there is only a one-day meeting in December which I need attend. This is a very interesting meeting because representatives from all the constituent organizations attend. So a wide breadth of organizations are represented, and they are all interested in the behavioral and brain sciences. Although I am currently the only official representative of HFES in attendance, HFES member Gerald P. Krueger is a member-at-large on the Executive Committee. Former HFES President Deborah A. Boehm-Davis also attends, but in the official role of a representative from the American Psychological Association.

     FABBS also publishes an informative monthly newsletter. You can subscribe to this newsletter by going to the FABBS Web site, where both the current and back issues can be accessed. You can also learn much more about FABBS, including the names of the other 26 constituent organizations.

     Rumor has it that HFES will be awarded another seat, so perhaps another colleague will join me.

For more information on HFES government outreach efforts, see the Public Policy Matters page of the HFES Web site.

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