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HFES Bulletin

October 2010
Volume 53, Number 10

Public Policy Matters

Committee on Human-Systems Integration (COHSI) Activities at the National Academies

By William S. Marras, COHSI Committee Chair

     It is time again to provide an update of the activities of the National Research Council's Committee on Human-Systems Integration (COHSI) at the National Academies. The committee (formerly known as the Committee on Human Factors) advises the nation on science, engineering, and medicine. Our mission is to respond to agencies that request assessments of issues involving human factors/ergonomics and to consider situations in which COHSI can be proactive in helping society relative to HF/E issues. COHSI serves as a standing committee and oversees ad hoc committees that are formed to address specific projects.

     Core sponsors support COHSI's mission of bringing the best HF/E science to bear on national issues and challenges in areas related to human-systems integration. COHSI is the only standing committee with a clear concentration of HF/E expertise at the National Academies. During the past two years, the HFES Government Relations Committee has requested - and the HFES Executive Council has approved - $5,000 in core support to the committee.

     COHSI has been busy this year. We have just held our second meeting and have several projects under way and several others under development.

     The committee is currently overseeing three active projects. The first, "Unifying Social Frameworks," is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. Its goal is to gain a better understanding of the social and cultural differences that can affect the ability of warfighters to interact with citizens and assess situations in foreign lands. The committee sponsored a workshop on this topic on August 16-17 at the National Academies' Keck Center in Washington D.C.

     The second activity involves a review of the research activities funded by the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). COHSI will develop an overall framework and evaluation design that will be used to review NIDRR's program priorities and its grant review and final selection process. The committee will also review grantee outputs in three areas (to be specified by the committee) that are representative of the NIDRR portfolio; examples include medical, engineering, and social science research (grantee output or summative evaluation).

     The third project under way involves the assessment of HF/E issues associated with the delivery of home health care. The goal of this project, which is sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, is to produce three products: a workshop summary that discusses relevant issues, a consensus report, and a designer's guide for the development of home health care information technology.

     COHSI is also actively involved in the development of four new potential projects:

  1. Assessing the need to incorporate HF/E knowledge into an engineering education
  2. The assessment of how HF/E systems principles can be employed to enhance medical care coordination for those suffering from chronic illnesses
  3. A human-systems integration approach to remotely operated vehicles
  4. Commuter pilot fatigue assessment

     This year marks the 30th anniversary of this standing committee's existence within the National Academies. In order to commemorate this occasion, COHSI is hosting a 30th anniversary celebration on December 2 at the Academies' Keck Center. We are still planning this celebration, but I am happy to report that as of this writing, Donald A. Norman and Lucian Leape have agreed to be the keynote speakers for this landmark occasion. We invite all HFES members to join us in this celebration. Additional information about COHSI can be found on the committee's Web site,

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