Why is it so hard to translate research into useful input for product, system or service creation?
This issue we’re looking at two related papers written by a team of researchers from Lancaster University in the UK. Richard Bentley, Tom Rodden, Pete Sawyer and Ian Sommerville were in computing. John Hughes, David Randall and Dan Shapiro were in sociology. One paper has Bentley as the first author and the other has Hughes. For my own convenience and to avoid subjecting you to academic referencing, I’m going to use “Bentley and Hughes” to refer toboth papers.
In 1992, Bentley and Hughes (and their collaborators) were researching how air traffic controllers worked. Controllers use three technologies. First, radar for tracking planes. Second, telephone and radio contact with pilots. And finally, “flight strips” which contain information from the flight database. Each strip represents a flight. Strips get printed out when a plane enters controlled airspace. Controllers work in a team and each one monitors a specific part of the airspace. Each controller has a tray of strips in front of them, representing the planes in their part of the controlled airspace. The work of air traffic control (ATC) involves monitoring the radar for each aeroplane’s dynamic position, using telephone and radio to tell pilots what to do, and using the strips to keep a record of instructions. Controllers talk to many flights so this external and persistent record is crucial. Controllers write on the strips as they issue instructions. As planes move around the airspace, controllers pass strips among the team.