December 17, 2020 / Larry Sloan

The Next Level of IH/OEHS Research

At AIHA, we pride ourselves on our advocacy for the IH/OEHS profession. In this role, AIHA technical committees and other volunteer groups train practitioners on IH/OEHS science through guidance documents, publications, and educational offerings. Equally important is leveraging our advocacy position to advance the state of IH/OEHS scientific knowledge and practice through partnerships with other stakeholders.

The success of IH/OEHS as a profession depends on cutting-edge research, training, and practical application—elements of a self-improving system. The members of the system are IH/OEHS professionals and academics who inform each other of gaps both in research and the ways practitioners implement health and safety in the workplace. But AIHA lacks a defined process for helping researchers investigate areas of concern identified by members and allied stakeholders and supporting the incorporation of research results into everyday practice.

To this end, the association seeks to define and manage a standing IH/OEHS research-to-practice agenda. Through this agenda, we can help inform and guide practitioners, academics, third-party research organizations, and AIHA volunteer groups toward engagement with critical research topics. Subsequently, AIHA will be able to facilitate the partnerships necessary to accomplish the agenda’s goals. We can then play a more integral role in preparing students to conduct research on these essential topics and practitioners to integrate new findings into their workplace procedures.

The task of managing a research agenda falls to a new volunteer group, the Defining the Science Advisory Group, whose mission will be to develop and maintain a national IH/OEHS research agenda endorsed by the AIHA Board of Directors.

The advisory group will address such matters as:

  • Identifying areas of practice that do not hold up to current IH/OEHS scientific findings so that AIHA and other stakeholders may improve practice through focused outreach, promotion, and training.
  • Identifying research initiatives needed to advance the state of IH/OEHS science and address gaps in practical knowledge.
  • Identifying opportunities to answer IH/OEHS research questions through studies of at-risk workers.
  • Defining a transparent, open process across volunteer groups, local sections, and allied stakeholders as to how AIHA might create and sustain a living research agenda on behalf of the profession and how project ideas may be prioritized for future funding.
  • Advising the AIHA Board and staff on where it should focus its internal resources to advance the state of IH/OEHS research, given AIHA’s strengths relative to sister organizations (such as ACGIH, the Board for Global EHS Credentialing, and the American Society of Safety Professionals).
  • Defining AIHA’s role as a facilitator for IH/OEHS science research—both for funded research opportunities that come our way and as a “bundler” of partners, needs, and ideas to be brought before funding organizations.
  • Determining how AIHA might better leverage its volunteer representatives recently appointed to NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Councils. NORA is an important source of funding for research and training and helps inform NIOSH’s strategic plan.

A call for volunteers to serve on the new advisory group was published on the AIHA website in September. I’m pleased to announce the group’s membership:

  • Scott Dotson, PhD, CIH, DABT
  • Brad Jones, CIH, CSP, CHMM
  • Anthony Oliveri, PhD, MPH
  • Paul F. Wambach, CIH
  • Donald M. Weekes, CIH, CSP, FAIHA
  • Cullen Charles Whittaker, CIH, CSP
  • Paul Middendorf, PhD, CIH (NIOSH liaison)
  • Emily Novicki, MPH (NIOSH liaison)
  • Kimberly M. Castillon, CIH (Board liaison)
  • John R. Mulhausen, PhD, CIH, FAIHA (Board liaison)

In the new year, we’ll also be adding representation from ACGIH to reflect our joint commitment to research.

Each advisory group member serves a three-year term. Terms are staggered so that as some members complete their service, others remain to support newcomers. As staff liaison to the Defining the Science Advisory Group, I look forward to working with these distinguished AIHA members to identify the profession’s most important research needs. If you have ideas for the advisory group to consider, please don’t hesitate to email me.

Larry Sloan

Larry Sloan is AIHA’s CEO.


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