Monthly Archives: June 2015

Inclusive research validity gives us the whole truth about the systems we study and their diverse users

A guest post by Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson, professor and chair, Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering

Picture of Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson

Dr. Tonya Smith-Jackson

All systems are human systems, and human-systems engineering cannot advance effectively without knowledge of multicultural factors that influence system design and evaluation.

Many of us have used research designs that do not focus on the potential contributing factors that are associated with multicultural users, multicultural contexts, or multicultural ecosystems. Inclusive research validity rests on the premise that the researcher is conducting research activities, analyzing data, and translating results that, when generalized, speak truth for diverse users and ecosystems.

This is discussed extensively in many documents, one of which is a well-intentioned book by me and my co-authors (Resnick and Johnson), titled “Cultural Ergonomics: Theory, Methods, and Applications.” If the target users are diverse (gender, age, generation, ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, geographic region, etc.), then it is our responsibility as scientists and engineers to pay due diligence to inclusive research validity.

This applies to almost every system we design. I cannot think of one system where all users are exactly the same on all human attributes – impossible. Yet we continue to conduct analyses that are not telling the whole truth, and we continue to publish work (under peer review) that is accepted without reporting the sample demographics or testing for individual or important group differences.

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