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New Year’s Resolutions from the SAFTE-FAST Science Team

Happy New Year! You know what that means: it's time to concentrate on those New Year's resolutions. Resolutions are a tradition where a person resolves to do something differently during the next calendar year. Usually, resolutions involve giving up a bad habit or picking up a good one. A resolution can also be to continue doing something positive. The team at SAFTE-FAST is thinking about ways to make improvements all year long, but we have a few new things we’re hoping to add to the list in 2024. 

SAFTE-FAST is resolving to bring the science of modeling more to the forefront in the upcoming years. As you may know, SAFTE-FAST is licensed through a non-profit research organization based in Baltimore, Maryland—The Institutes for Behavior Resources (IBR). IBR provides a diverse array of behavioral programs and tools to help reduce risk and improve the quality of life in the local Baltimore community as well as worldwide. SAFTE-FAST is one of IBR’s most well-known and widely used tools to help manage fatigue risk. We are proud of our reputation as a scientific organization but realize that a lot of the brainstorming, literature review, data analysis, construction of equations that predict risk, and proper testing to ensure goodness of fit for those equations (aka, “the science™”) happens on the back end.


If you’ve ever reached out to your SAFTE-FAST representative with a specific question, you might have been directed to IBR President and Chief Scientist Dr. Steven Hursh or Director of Sleep Science Dr. Jaime Devine (me) for support. If you attended the 2023 SAFTE-FAST user conference, you may have seen my talk about fatigue at work or Dr. Hursh’s two presentations about modeling fatigue hazards associated with workload or improvements to modeling sleep out of phase. We have also done blog posts about improving the mathematical modeling, such as this post about the Dynamic Sleep Rhythm Amplitude or the Insights feature. The blog also posts findings from other research groups or discusses advancements in the field of sleep and circadian science on a month-to-month basis.


Blog posts and one-off conversations with our science team are great, but we can certainly improve how accessible the science behind fatigue risk management is to our users. Two of our resolutions for 2024 aim to make “the science™” more readily available. The first resolution is to produce more documentation that explains the relationship between safety, fatigue, behavior, and biology in general terms. These documents will be different from white papers that explain the features of SAFTE-FAST or academic publications that disseminate the results of data analysis in scientific journals. We will try to produce more pamphlets, handouts, or one-pagers that can be used to quickly inform operators about the importance of proper rest in the context of the ability to perform on the job.


Secondly, we are hoping to host an online webinar series devoted to the topic of fatigue and performance. The webinar series would allow industry professionals to learn about fatigue research that pertains to them. Many universities host recurring webinars where someone explains the findings from a recent study or a guest speaker describes their area of expertise. These seminars have been geared towards educating students who are planning to become research scientists in the future. There is no reason that an academic researcher cannot explain their findings from a study about shift workers or pilots directly to an audience of shift workers or pilots. Both scientists and operators are likely to benefit from a meeting of the minds.


Our last two resolutions focus on improving the implementation of “the science™”. SAFTE-FAST provides consistent software updates that improve usability and functionality. Still, we hope to provide more updates like the Dynamic Sleep Rhythm Amplitude—changes that will improve the model's accuracy based on findings from laboratory studies, fieldwork, and direct communication with our users. Any updates to how SAFTE-FAST models fatigue will be supported by documentation explaining the change and why we expect it to produce better results. New Year’s resolutions can include continuing to do something good—so we are not about to stop explaining the system in excruciating detail to anyone who will listen.


Our last resolution pertains to workload—a hot topic from the 2023 User Conference and a global concern given continuing staff shortage issues. We—and by we, I mean the entire scientific community, not just fatigue risk management-- have just scratched the surface of understanding the impact of workload on cognitive performance. Workload is a catch-all term that can include physical demand, mental effort, emotional stress, time on task, and perceived difficulty. SAFTE-FAST allows users to quantify workload factors with time-stamped markers, adjustable weights, event tags, and triggers. It is harder to measure than hours of sleep, hours of work, or time of day, but that does not mean it is impossible to measure. Analyzing field data from our users and collaborating with laboratory researchers is sure to reveal insights into how to model workload and, thus, mitigate it as a risk.


Those are our goals for 2024 and beyond. How do our goals stack up against everyone else’s? Forbes Health surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults about their 2024 resolutions and found that most respondents focus on fitness rather than any other goal (full statistics here). SAFTE-FAST’s resolutions align with the mere 3% who focus on better work performance. We also have set one more goal than the average of three resolutions and agree with the scant 22% of respondents who plan to hold themselves accountable for achieving progress. Finally, the Forbes survey found that the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months, but we aim to align with the 6% of respondents who stick with their resolutions longer than 12 months. Hopefully, you have been inspired to make some goals of your own—like “attend a SAFTE-FAST hosted webinar” or “share data to improve workload modeling”.


These are just suggestions off the top of my head. Happy 2024!

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