I saw that US News recently ran an article on the "Best Careers of 2008"
and a new addition this year is "Usability/User Experience Specialist",
which arguably we are. This seems like a great sign that we are nearing
the tipping point, along with all of the good and bad things that come
along with it.
Personally, I was excited to see it and rushed in to see what they were
saying. I have built positions where I am heavily involved in the entire
process, from ethnography and concepting through deployment. I may be
atypical (and lucky), and I love seeing others' descriptions of the field
"You write a report summarizing what you've learned. Then, engineers
develop a prototype of the product that comes closest to meeting both the
company's and the surgeons' desires."
I've certainly worked in situations where this has happened. The research
is compiled, never presented, and engineers build something. However, I
think the majority of what I do happens between those two sentences.
Namely the "Design" portion. Translation of the research findings into
useful items such as personas, scenarios, usage models, use cases,
architectures, wireframes, even early functional prototypes are done by
designers, interaction included.
I don't think the reporter misunderstood the situation. I have spent a lot
of time changing the "toss it over the wall" approach that a lot of
companies employ. Checking off the research portion as done and handing
the abstract documentation to engineers thinking it will somehow transfer
all of the experience and understanding is unfortunately common. Science
has a while before osmosis becomes a viable business practice.