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  • NHRC Scientist Awarded for Work in Aviation Selection Research

    SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Lt. Brennan Cox, aerospace experimental psychologist at the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC), was awarded for his work in aviation selection and aircrew survivability Jan. 14. 

    The Robert S. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Aviation Research, which is given annually by the United States Naval Aerospace Experimental Psychology Society, was based on Cox's research in support of the Naval Aviation Selection Test Battery (ASTB), the primary tool for selecting pilots and flight officers for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.

    Cox's research resulted in an updated version of the ASTB, the ASTB-E, which added new components to the battery, including computer adaptive testing framework, an adaptive forced-choice personality inventory, and a series of performance-based measures for assessing candidates' psychomotor skills and abilities. 

    When translated into operational practice, the ASTB-E demonstrated improvements in predictive validity, test security, and administration efficiency, yielding an estimated $42 million in cost savings annually.

    "All test development and delivery decisions made by my research team were data-driven and supported by science," said Cox. "At face value, these tests resemble any number of basic flight simulator video games. An initial concern was whether experienced "gamers" would over-perform on these ASTB-E tests and be incorrectly identified as fit for flight training - a false positive - but our research found that while individuals who self-report a history of flight simulator gaming experience tend to do well on the ASTB-E, they also tend to do better in flight training. Skills developed playing video games using stick and throttle devices at home translate to the ASTB-E as well as the cockpit."

    Cox said his work reflects his interest in the study of individual difference variables, such as personality traits and cognitive abilities, and how they contribute to workplace performance. During his research for the ASTB-E, Cox was able to systematically investigate the underlying constructs that predict a person's performance in a very complex environment like the cockpit.

    "This research truly represents a team effort," said Cox. "I share the honor of this award with each of the colleagues who helped make it possible, and I look forward to future opportunities to collaborate."

    Cox, a native of Stone Mountain, Georgia, joined the Navy in 2010, after being recruited while presenting his dissertation research at a conference. Cox was still a student at Auburn University where he earned a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. 

    "I was unaware that the Navy had active-duty positions for scientists," said Cox. "I chose this career path because it allows me to be a part of something bigger than myself, and I believe the work I do supports a greater good. Plus, I got to learn how to fly."

    "I am extremely proud of the work done by Lt. Cox in support of our aviation community," said Capt. Rita Simmons, commanding officer of NHRC. "His commitment to excellence and innovation, his collaborative spirit, and his hard work and dedication are the qualities we need in our scientists in order to ensure we support the readiness of our warfighters. As a former aviator myself, I truly appreciate the work he is doing to keep our pilots safe."

    As the DoD's premier deployment health research center, NHRC's cutting-edge research and development is used to optimize the operational health and readiness of the nation's armed forces. In proximity to more than 95,000 active-duty service members, world-class universities, and industry partners, NHRC sets the standard in joint ventures, innovation, and translational research.

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