About WSI

The Work Science Institute (WSI) is a collaborative hub for researchers at US and international universities, non-university research organizations, private-sector research organizations, and research-oriented organizations and businesses, interested in creating better understanding of biological work processes, of relationships between human work and biological processes, and of the work of research.

Foundations of an Integrative Approach

This approach to the integrative study of work in living systems is based on these foundations:

  • Integration of high-quality research in such areas as diverse as molecular physiology, sensory neurobiology, biogeochemistry, electrical engineering, evolutionary biology, computer science, industrial and applied psychology, and behavioral neuroscience can—and have in our projects—improved our understanding of both human work and of biological work processes.
  • The work of doing research, in natural sciences and in other fields, in universities, government labs, and in private-sector organizations, is itself an example of work performance involving cognitive, physical, and biological work.  The work of research that can be positively shaped by extensive empirical research on work and performance in the human workplace; recent research on the intersection of life sciences and psychological sciences, including at the molecular and cellular level; effective training and experimental process design; and by bringing diverse groups of researchers together to tackle challenging scientific problems.

This unique approach has been the subject of cooperative research efforts between the Work Science Institute and university researchers since the founding of the Work Science Institute in 1986, and in a collaborative approach pioneered beginning in 2000:

  • WSI was founded as the Center for Human Function & Work (CHFW) in Champaign, Illinois in 1986 and in Boulder, Colorado in 1989, where the CHFW became the first organization approved as a University of Colorado Boulder Research Park Organization.  
  • Researchers from the University of Illinois, University of Colorado, and University of Cambridge have participated in WSI projects, along with researchers from 10 other major universities, Federal labs, private-sector, and non-profit organizations
  • CHFW was organized as WorkScience, LLC in 2000, and named the Work Science Institute in 2015.  
  • The Work Science Institute co-founded the Center for the Integrative Study of Work (CISW) in 2000, a collaborative approach in which two co-directors were named, one from WSI and one from the University of Colorado. 
  • Beginning in 2001, researchers at the University of Cambridge became involved in the Work Science Institute/CISW effort that became known as the “Work Meets Life project.”
  • Beginning in 2003, the University of Colorado provided hosting of CISW, and the Executive Director of WSI served as the Director of CISW at the University of Colorado. 
  • In 2003 and 2004, researchers from the Work Science Institute, University of Cambridge, University of Colorado, and the University of St. Andrews, joined in two international working conferences to develop the Work Meets Life project and the integrative study of work in living systems.
  • In 2011, the same working group published their efforts as Work Meets Life: A Guidebook to the Integrative Study of Work in Living Systems by the MIT Press, resulting in five laudatory reviews for the success of the effort in peer-reviewed academic journals.
  • In 2012, faculty members at the University of Cambridge and the University of St. Andrews, were first named International Fellows of CISW, recognizing their ongoing involvement and commitment since 2001.
  • In 2014, in connection with the successful reception of the Work Meets Life volume, CISW was renamed the Center for the Integrative Study of Work in Living Systems to better describe the effort.
  • In 2015, the Work Science Institute began hosting these efforts, to better include fellows and members from many universities, including international universities; and to provide for the welcoming participation of researchers and organizations from outside of universities, especially non-profit, governmental, and private-sector research organizations, and interested businesses and organizations.

Throughout its history, the hallmark of the Work Science Institute has been to bring research on human performance and on the basic sciences underlying that research—in natural sciences, engineering, mathematics, and neuroscience and psychology—to bear on fundamental problems in human work and performance; on difficult problems in understanding work processes in living systems; and, more recently, on the work of doing research itself.