Friday, 24 April 2009

Ergonomics Society Anniversary Conference

The highlight of this week has to be the Ergonomics Society 60th Anniversary Conference, held Wednesday and Thursday at the Royal College of Physicians just by The Regent’s Park in London.

Actually the festivities kicked off on Tuesday evening with a VIP reception, where we were showered with wine and nibbles and treated to a couple of top drawer speeches from Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, and Professor Pieter Rookmaaker, President of the Federation of European Ergonomics Societies (FEES). Dr Gibson’s speech was particularly encouraging, being a member of the Innovation Universities and Skills Committee and someone who’s especially sympathetic to the ergonomics cause. Prof Rookmaaker also drew our attention to the first European Ergonomics conference to be held in Bruges from 10th October 2010 – surely a must-attend event.

Wednesday and Thursday were the main session days, where there were several plenary papers given by esteemed ergonomists from around the world, plus a bunch of interesting sessions on topics from public health, through human factors integration, to accidents and human error.

I teamed up with Prof Jan Noyes from Bristol and Dr Sarah Sharples from Nottingham to give a session on automation, which proved intimidatingly popular with standing room only at the back. One of those where you deliberately avoid looking at the audience for fear you’ll get stage fright. I also chaired a session on road ergonomics with papers from Dr Alex Stedmon (also at Nottingham), Nick Gkikas from Loughborough, and Dr Sandy Robertson of UCL.

Fergus Bisset (who was Twittering away during the conference) and I had a stand promoting the Real World Design exhibition at the Design Museum (see my blogpost here for more), which attracted good attention from the delegates and gave us some more ideas for exhibits in the medical and consumer product areas.

Socially it was great as well, always a good opportunity to catch up with old networks and make new ones, with a very posh dinner on Wednesday night courtesy of our hosts at the RCP. And let’s not forget the location – a glorious part of London, so quiet and leafy that you could easily forget you’re actually in the capital. The RCP itself was an excellent venue, especially the Dorchester Library where the VIP reception was held.

Next year’s conference reverts to the more traditional format – this one was special for the anniversary – and will be at Keele University in Staffordshire. Hopefully see you there!

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