Quality Assurance in Environmental Psychophysics
M. Birgitta Berglund Institute of Environmental Medicine of the Karolinska Institute, and University of Stockholm
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently introduced and discussed the principles of quality assurance within the realm of public health ( WHO, 1983), including the scientific community. In applied research, the relatively new concept of quality assurance refers to all the steps that should be taken by the researcher to ensure that the research findings are of good quality; thus, quality assurance is accomplished by adequate self-evaluative and self-corrective research strategies. This means that quality assurance involves the whole research process, not only precautions for adequate statistical data evaluations in terms of validity and reliability. It also involves the assessment and scientific formulation of the most appropriate research problem associated with, for example, an environmental problem posed by society, as well as the application or development of the most efficient study design. In a broad sense, the quality of the research embraces professional performance, efficiency in the use of resource, risk management, and societal satisfaction of new knowledge.
Thus, psychophysics should be equally concerned with the strategies for generating, controlling, and measuring the stimulus exposure as with strategies for registering, measuring, and interpreting the psychological effects. For the researcher in basic psychophysics, the broader aspects of quality assurance may seem superfluous, but, for the researcher in environmental psychophysics, it is a reality that is a must. For applied problems with community noise, odorous air pollution, and indoor air quality, the interpretation and evaluation of psychological magnitudes in psychophysical