Book written by ARL researchers, Designing Soldier Systems, receives positive reviews

March 26, 2015

By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs

Story Highlights

  • The greatest value of Designing Soldier Systems is the combined knowledge emanating from 40 expert contributors to its 22 well-written chapters
  • Future research, evaluation processes and human factors/ergonomics-centered designs are critical for improving performance in military settings and beyond
  • Effectively communicates the diverse range of research currently being undertaken surrounding the human factors issues impacting Army operations

Researchers from The U.S. Army Research Laboratory Human Research and Engineering Directorate wrote a book entitled Designing Soldier Systems: Current Issues in Human Factors that was published by Ashgate Publishing Company in 2012. Since then, they have received several outstanding book reviews.

According to the Human Factors in Defence series editors, located in the United Kingdom, "human factors is key to enabling today's armed forces to implement their vision to 'produce battle-winning people and equipment that are fit for the challenge of today, ready for the tasks of tomorrow and capable of building for the future.'"

The book was broken down into three sections – Understanding Human Performance with Complex Systems, Overcoming Operational and Environmental Conditions, and Assessing and Designing Systems; each chapter was written by leading researchers at ARL.

The most recent review was in the January 2015 issue of Ergonomics in Design, which is a publication of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society that was written by Dr. Jenna Scisco, research psychologist in the Military Nutrition Division at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts.

According to Scisco's review, "The greatest value of Designing Soldier Systems is the combined knowledge emanating from 40 expert contributors to its 22 well-written chapters. Their suggestions for future research, evaluation processes and human factors/ergonomics-centered designs are critical for improving performance in military settings and beyond."

The book, which was edited by Dr. Pamela Savage-Knepshield, John Martin, John Lockett III and Dr. Laurel Allender included chapters from researchers throughout HRED with roughly half of the authors located in field elements and the other half at headquarters.

Last July, Paul Salmon from the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, wrote a review for the Journal of Battlefield Technology, where he summarized the book by saying, "In summary, Designing Soldier Systems does exactly what it was supposed to, and does it very well. It effectively communicates the diverse range of research currently being undertaken surrounding the human factors issues impacting Army operations. It is comprehensive in this respect, and any reader wishing to see the current status quo will be more than satisfied. For those wishing to see what is currently going in U.S. Army human factors research I can highly recommend this book. Readers wishing to explore more in-depth human factors theories and methods underpinning defence force research will probably be better served looking elsewhere in the Ashgate series; however, the book provides an interesting read for anyone conducting research in the area of defence."

In a review written by John Rickard in February 2014 for Ergonomics, he indicated the book is a useful read for anyone working on designing equipment and systems both now and in the future.

"While written about American military systems and equipment, it provides an insight into many areas that fall under the remit of human factors today. For those in the field of human factors working on military projects, it reinforces and provides evidence of the many problems that will be encountered. The book also identifies that human factors practitioners are in some sense agents for change, or at least the catalyst for change, even if this change is unwelcome. It enlightens the reader on many areas of research, from interacting with robotics to how to improve learning. Each chapter in the book deals comprehensively with different subjects allowing the reader to delve into the areas that interest them most. One of the main threats [identified] in the book is the enhancement of the end-users senses and the ever-increasing cognitive load being placed on operators/decision-makers," said Rickard.

Rickard concluded: "This book will provide useful background reading and references to anyone working in the field of human factors or the development of equipment and systems. Throughout this book several themes were constantly highlighted, such as identifying human factors issues at the start of project development, which will reduce not only development cost but also development time as well. Another theme is that regardless of the system being developed and the level of technologies being used, do not forget the ergonomic basics, communication with the end-user is also a key issue in confirming what is required and ensuring designers are aware of what is wanted by the user, not what they think is wanted by the end-user. Soldier–systems offer lots of potential to improve operator's effectiveness if done correctly. Only time will tell if the target audience for this book read it and digest its message."

ARL's authors say they are pleased with the reviews the book has received.

Dr. Linda Elliott from ARL's Fort Benning field element and co-author on the chapter Reducing Workload: A Multisensory Approach said, "It was truly motivating to be encouraged to speak out from an applied perspective and outline issues specifically from the user point of view. I hope researchers will find these perspectives useful as they refine theory and methodologies in their respective performance domains."

Savage-Knepshield indicated the book has helped researchers get the word out about the great work that goes on at ARL to others in the human factors field.

"The great reviews are indicative of the high-caliber work performed by ARL HRED. We seek to expand upon the research reported in the book through collaboration across industry, academia, and government as we embrace the core tenets of ARL's Open Campus initiative," said Savage-Knepshield.

The Ashgate's Human Factors in Defence series comprises of specially commissioned books from internationally recognized experts in the field. They provide in-depth, authoritative accounts of key human factors issues being addressed by the defence industry across the world.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: March 26, 2015