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By Julie Freeman, Interim HFES Executive Director
The announcement in the February 8 Bulletin that the HFES Executive Council voted to seek an association management company (AMC) to manage its operations has generated some questions from members. The answers to those questions are below. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can this decision be made without a vote of the membership?
The decision to have the Society’s operations managed by an association management company is an operational decision. Operational decisions do not require a vote of the membership, just as the membership does not vote on hiring a new staff member or an office lease.
What will happen to current staff?
The RFP that will be distributed to a variety of AMCs will ask the AMC to consider hiring current staff. AMCs are often open to hiring the Society’s staff when they assume responsibility for its operations. If that happens, the HFES staff would have to decide whether the position fits their career goals and desired working relationship.
How can members be sure that the AMC staff will provide the quick customer service that we are used to?
Providing good customer service is just as important to an AMC as to the societies and associations it manages. HFES will still have a dedicated phone line and e-mail address and staff who will respond to questions and requests for assistance. During the interview process the Search Committee will ask candidates how they handle customer service, and that will be a question asked of all references.
How can we be sure that programs we value continue and that institutional knowledge is not lost?
The HFES strategic plan will still be developed and overseen by the Executive Council. That plan, which uses insight about members’ needs and desires, guides the development of HFES programs and services. The EC will also be responsible for setting and managing the annual budget and evaluating the performance of the executive director.
HFES has had a very stable staff. How can we be sure that we will have the same longevity with AMC staff?
HFES has been lucky to have staff who have served members for so long, but even HFES has had some turnover. There is no way to prevent some staff turnover as people leave positions for a variety of reasons. One advantage of an AMC is that should a staff member leave, it is less disruptive because there are other AMC staff who can perform the role, either temporarily or on a long-term basis.
What if an AMC staff member working for HFES is not performing up to expectations?
The Executive Council will evaluate the performance of the executive director. If his/her performance is unsatisfactory, corrective steps can be taken. The executive director will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the AMC staff assigned to HFES.
How will such a change affect the operation of publications? Will the structure and compensation be affected?
Just as it does now, the EC will approve the Society’s organizational structure and budget. That means that the structure for each publication can remain the same. And the compensation for editors will be at the level that the EC determines during its budgeting process.
How much control does the membership have over anything in this model?
It is the responsibility of the EC to represent the needs and desires of the members. It will also be the responsibility of the executive director to oversee programs that meet members’ needs. Members can continue to express their opinions and ideas to the EC and the ED.
What happens to the historical archive of things we have? Where will that reside?
The historical archive with all HFES materials will be maintained in the AMC office.
Why, again, did the EC decide to make this change?
Management by an AMC should allow HFES to become more financially stable, which means that it will have the freedom to innovate and provide services that are valuable to all segments of its membership.
A one-day program on Monday, October 1, preceding the Annual Meeting will feature presentations and demonstrations of exoskeletons. Organized in cooperation with the ASTM International Committee on Exoskeletons and Exosuits F48, “ErgoX Symposium: Exoskeletons in the Workplace - Assessing Safety, Usability, & Productivity” will bring together professionals from three groups to share their knowledge, experience, and goals:
Designers and producers will showcase and demonstrate their products.
Researchers from universities and government agencies will provide information on approaches to the design of human factors research on exoskeletons to appropriately assess fit, usability, safety, ergonomics, productivity and cost-effectiveness.
Users and workers with experience using exoskeletons in production environments will share their evaluation methods, expectations, and findings, both positive and negative.
Those who register for both ErgoX and the Annual Meeting will receive discounted rates. The ErgoX Exoskeletons Symposium is supported by Platinum Sponsor Liberty Mutual Insurance, Gold Sponsor Boeing, and additional organizations. The event is chaired by Christopher Reid, Kermit Davis, and David Rempel.
Bookmark the ErgoX Symposium Web page for updates on the program, to view the flyer, and to spread the word.
Following are some news stories relevant to human factors/ergonomics from William F. Moroney, who prepares regularly occurring “In the News” columns in Ergonomics in Design.
What the Erroneous Hawaiian Missile Alert Can Teach Us About Error Prevention. By K. Flaherty, January 16, 2018, http://bit.ly/2ChAduo. “On Saturday, January 13th 2018, residents and tourists in the Hawaiian Islands received a very frightening emergency alert on their mobile devices. The alert from Hawaii’s emergency alert command center read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Using information gleaned from open sources, Flaherty examined the user interface and identified at least the following problems: poorly differentiated options that are not presented in an organized manner; a interaction design in which the test mode and operational mode are presented on the same screen; and possibly a poor confirmation screen. In addition, the system lacked a readily accessible undo capability; it took 38 minutes to inform the public that the alert was an error. The FCC identified two major concerns “…lack of reasonable safeguards in place to prevent human error from resulting in the transmission of a false alert; and Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency didn’t have a plan for what to do if a false alert was transmitted” https://usat.ly/2F348t2.
Fatal Amtrak Crash in South Carolina Is New Challenge for Rail Service By A. Blinder, C. Caron, and J. Jeter, February 4, 2018, http://nyti.ms/2o7UNse. Within the past two months, Amtrak has had three major incidents: In South Carolina, a passenger train collided with a stationary freight train (2 fatalities, at least 116 injured); in Virginia, a train carrying members of Congress struck a garbage truck (1 fatality, 2 injuries); and south of Seattle, Washington, a passenger train on a new Amtrak route drove off an overpass onto a major highway (3 fatalities, more than 100 injured). In South Carolina, the passenger train and a freight train were on the same track at the same time. In the Virginia grade-crossing incident, the engineer activated the emergency brake before the train hit the truck (http://wapo.st/2Cggv1X). In the Washington state incident, the train, going approximately 80 mph, derailed after entering a overpass with a posted speed of 30 mph (https://usat.ly/2BrR0y8). The driver applied the brake seconds before the derailment (https://usat.ly/2ss2lLw); unlike previous incidents, personal electronic devices were not in use immediately prior to the derailment (http://cnn.it/2EsZrf2). Positive Train Control (PTC), which would have slowed the train, was available but had not been tested and evaluated on that locomotive (http://nbcnews.to/2F0Se3b). All three incidents are under investigation by the NTSB. In a related incident, involving two maintenance worker fatalities, the lack of a culture of safety at Amtrak was raised (http://cbsloc.al/2F3LjWY). NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said, “Despite the emphasis on rules compliance, investigators did not find a culture of compliance at all.” He added: “Rather, they found a culture of fear on one hand, and a normalization of ‘deviance from rules’ on the other hand. Strong safety culture and a culture of fear cannot coexist.”
At its January 30 meeting, the HFES Executive Council (EC) voted to seek the services of an association management company (AMC) to manage the Society’s operations.
According to Valerie Rice, HFES President, “The process of researching options for HFES began many months ago when Lynn Strother, our Executive Director for many years, announced her retirement. With our change in executive leadership, it was an excellent opportunity to look at a variety of operational models for the Society.”
The Executive Council was also motivated by the desire to ensure HFES’ financial sustainability and to have a greater presence in Washington, DC.
By using an AMC, it is expected that HFES will significantly reduce its administrative costs. With those savings, the Society can invest in new initiatives that will benefit its members. In addition, a greater presence in DC will help HFES build relationships with other scientific societies and regulatory agencies and increase its ability to lobby Congress.
Although the management of its operations will change, HFES’ member services will continue—such as publications, Annual Meeting, Health Care Symposium, Web site, and Career Center. The AMC will provide an executive director and staff, in consultation with the EC. And Valerie adds, “HFES will continue to rely on its volunteer leadership and committees to guide its programs.”
The transition to AMC management will not be complete until after the 2018 Annual Meeting. Currently, the Search Committee is preparing a request for proposal to be distributed to AMCs throughout the United States. Once the Search Committee receives responses, its members will begin interviewing the candidates that best meet HFES’ requirements and will visit the finalists at their offices. The committee is working to have a selection made in time for the new executive director to attend the Annual Meeting.
“We may have a new physical location and new staff working with us,” says Valerie, “but the Executive Council is committed to making sure the AMC continues to provide the same quality of service that our members have come to expect. In fact, we anticipate that this new model will help us to improve and innovate so that HFES can remain an invaluable professional association for its members.”
Send your questions or comments to Julie Freeman, Interim Executive Director, email@example.com.
Corporate Sustaining Membership is available to companies and other types of organizations that are interested in supporting the profession and the Society. Organizations that understand and promote the value of HF/E research and its applications in the workplace are encouraged to become a Sustaining Member. Through this program, HFES will recognize your organization’s role as a leader in your industry. See the benefits and application under Join HFES in the navigation bar at the top of this page.
When you become a Corporate Sustaining Member, your contributions are applied to
Raise the visibility and understanding of the HF/E field and profession among federal, state, and local decision makers and legislators
Promote the Society as an authoritative voice and resource for making evidence-based policy decisions
Advance the career path of early-career professionals through mentor-mentee programs
Support students as they advance into the HF/E field through grants and awards
Promote the evaluation and exchange of HF/E information among researchers, educators and practitioners
I encourage you to demonstrate your commitment to human factors/ergonomics in this very public and meaningful way.
The HFES Science Policy Fellowship (SPF) program provides a valuable opportunity for members to learn how to navigate the federal policy process and successfully advocate for human factors and ergonomics on the national stage.
SPF participants will receive extensive training in public affairs, advocacy, and outreach by Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC (Lewis-Burke) and the HFES Government Relations Committee (GRC) during the HFES Annual Meeting. They will also participate in an annual spring Capitol Hill Day in Washington, DC, including a comprehensive Hill visit training session and insights from a speaker (congressional or agency staff) the day prior. During their one-year commitment, SPF participants will be invited to attend monthly conference calls with Lewis-Burke and the HFES GRC covering ongoing events and opportunities for the Society to engage in policy decisions.
Following an initial one-year term in the SPF program, each program graduate will be asked to commit to two years of service in an outreach capacity. They will create a customized plan that may include continued participation in Capitol Hill Day and interactions with policy makers in DC, supporting the Society’s policy objectives at the local and/or state level, serving on the GRC or a subcommittee, and other activities developed by each participant. HFES SPF participants and graduates will provide a pipeline of politically engaged and knowledgeable HFES members with expertise in the policymaking process, effective advocacy, and impactful outreach.
Successful applicants should be Associate or Full Members for at least five years. Applicants are invited to provide a one-page statement of interest, a current CV that includes the applicant’s name and both home and business addresses (for congressional district identification purposes), and a letter of support from their employer to participate. Application materials should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 30, 2018.
Criteria for selection include good communication skills. In selecting SPF participants, the Society will aim for a balance across geographical location, institution type, demographics, and areas of expertise. Up to five SPF participants will be selected. Please direct any questions to me at email@example.com.
In the past several months, Congress has taken steps to reauthorize policies and programs at the Department of Education. The Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizes numerous federal aid programs that support students pursuing postsecondary education as well as institutions of higher education. A comprehensive reauthorization, which has not happened since 2008, would result in significant changes and have implications for financial aid and other regulations pertaining to graduate students.
In December, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved, by a vote of 23-17, its version of the HEA reauthorization, known as H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The bill would make significant changes to financial aid programs. The PROSPER Act would eliminate several grant programs, including the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG). The bill would also make changes to the allocation formula for Federal Work Study (FWS) grants. Among other changes, graduate students would no longer be eligible for FWS. A full analysis of the legislation is available here. It is likely that the House will take up H.R 4508, the PROSPER Act, sometime in February or early March.
The American Council on Education (ACE) has launched an HEA advocacy Web site, which is available here. ACE and others are urging significant changes to the PROSPER Act and may make tools available in the future that would enable HFES members to voice their concerns to their federal representatives.
Meanwhile, the Senate has taken a more bipartisan approach on an HEA reauthorization. In January, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held three committee hearings on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The hearings have been titled “Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency,” “Access and Innovation,” and “Accountability and Risk to Taxpayers.” Major themes that have emerged from the hearings are calls for more effective regulations, providing educational opportunities for nontraditional students, and creating an environment in which colleges can innovate. Conversations around student aid simplification have also included calls to avoid elimination of student aid. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has stated that the committee will write its bill in "the next few weeks,” and he hopes for markup in April.
Sources and Additional Information:
Videos of the Senate HELP Committee hearings are available at https://www.help.senate.gov/hearings.
Video of the markup of the PROSPER Act, the most recent bill text, and text of offered amendments is available at https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/
A fact sheet and bill summary of the PROSPER Act are available at https://edworkforce.house.gov/prosper/.
Lewis-Burke’s comprehensive overview of the PROSPER Act legislation is available at http://www.lewis-burke.com/sites/default/files/prosper_act_hea.pdf.
The American Council on Education’s advocacy Web site on the HEA reauthorization is available at http://www.acenet.edu/Pages/Renewing-the-Higher-Education-Act.aspx#tabContent-5.
Lewis-Burke Associates LLC, a leading Washington, DC-based government relations and consulting firm, represents the public policy interests of scientific societies and institutions of higher education. Lewis-Burke's staff of about 20 government relations professionals works to promote the federal research and policy goals of HFES and the HF/E community.
HFES is collaborating with The Society of Women Engineers' “Diversity and Inclusion Fuels Innovation in STEM” Capitol Hill Day and reception, which takes place March 14–15, 2018. This event will increase awareness of the need for and the importance of increased diversity and inclusion in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce.
HFES is cosponsoring the 15th Annual Engineering Public Policy Symposium, which takes place Tuesday, April 24, 2018. Convened in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering-American Association of Engineering Societies Convocation of the Professional Engineering Societies and the AAES Awards Banquet, the symposium will focus on public policy priorities pertaining to the Fiscal Year 2019 Federally Funded Research and Development Budget Request.
The Society will serve as a cooperating organization for PhyCS 2018, the 5th International Conference on Physiological Computing Systems, to be held September 19–21 in Seville, Spain. PhyCS is sponsored by INSTICC, the Institute for Systems and Technologies of Information, Control and Communication.