AHFE 2018 - Call for Papers

Keynote Address

Human Factors and Ergonomics in Solving and
Coping with Global Problems

Prof. Andrew Thatcher
Chair Industrial & Organisational Psychology
University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Date: Sunday,July 22, 2018  •  17:00-19:00
Room: Grand Caribbean Ballroom (Lobby Level)
General Session Chair: Dr. Dylan Schmorrow



About the speaker:

Prof. Andrew Thatcher chairs the "Human Factors and for Sustainable Development" Technical Committee of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) and is one of the editors of ‘Ergonomics.' His research interests are concerned with building theoretical models that connect social and ecological ideas to support human factors and ergonomics work. This work looks at how complex adaptive system analysis might be integrated with complex sociotechnical systems to understand sustainability in human factors and ergonomics systems. This work applies concepts such as system resilience and adaptability to understand how humans might facilitate or hinder sustainability and sustainable development. His empirical work looks at various aspects of ergonomics and sustainability and includes trying to understand the psychological factors in the adoption of sustainable technologies and determining the health and well-being of "green” buildings for building occupants. He is the ergonomics specialist on the World Green Building Council’s technical committee on wellbeing, health, and productivity in green buildings. He is the immediate past-President of the Ergonomics Society of South Africa and was recently asked to sit on the IEA’s Future of Ergonomics Task Team (chaired by Sarah Sharples). He is one of the editors of the book entitled “Ergonomics and human factors for a sustainable future: current research and future possibilities" which will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in January 2018.


In his 1993 IEA keynote address, Neville Moray urged the human factors and ergonomics (HFE) discipline to face up to the global challenges confronting humanity and consider how HFE might be part of the solution. Since 1993, many of these global challenges have become more severe and the HFE response has been sporadic at best. There are two primary reasons why HFE has not been more active in addressing global challenges. First, many of these issues may seem remote from the day-to-day activities of most practitioners and researchers in our discipline who were focusing on smaller human-tool or human-tool-environment interactions. Second, global challenges require global solutions and the financial incentives don’t appear to be available. Most HFE practitioners would ask, “What do  global challenges have to do with HFE?” The answer is simple, global challenges are created by humans, therefore, human interventions must be part of the solution. As a discipline that literally has the words “human” and “factors” in its name, we should arguably be at the forefront of addressing these problems. Since HFE is primarily a systems discipline, this keynote address will demonstrate how a complex adaptive systems understanding is required to unpack problems, to identify solutions, and to select places in the system where HFE interventions can have the greatest impact. We will critically reflect on what has been achieved by the HFE discipline to address global challenges such as water, food, and energy shortages and how to reduce pollution and waste. HFE has slowly started to play a significant role in developing the technologies and evaluating the systems needed to secure a sustainable future. We will conclude with suggestions for priority research and practice that is required of the HFE discipline to facilitate a sustainable future for humanity.