Occupational science is an emerging discipline poised at the crossroads between the biological and social sciences, dedicated to the study of humans as occupational beings. Through the efforts of Dr. Elizabeth Yerxa along with her faculty at the University of Southern California, a doctoral course of study in occupational science was founded in 1989, marking the formal establishment of the discipline. Defined early on as "the study of the human as an occupational being, including the need for and capacity to engage in and orchestrate daily occupations in the environment over the lifespan" (Yerxa et al, 1989, p. 6), the scope of occupational science scholarship has continued to evolve over its 18-year history. Today's occupational scientists engage in a wide breadth of both quantitative and qualitative research, to answer questions such as: what are the health promoting benefits of occupation; how do gender, class or other social factors influence occupational pursuits; what are the biological bases for our daily orchestration of occupations; and how do different types of engagement in the world alter neurobiological structures and processes. The discipline of occupational science maintains a symbiotic relationship with the practice of occupational therapy (Clark, 2006), and discoveries in occupational science inform practice while research responds to practical needs. Since its inception in Los Angeles in 1989, occupational science has grown in both depth and breadth of influence, with undergraduate and now PhD programs on both coasts of the United States, the Journal of Occupational Science published since 1994, and exciting research being performed by occupational scientists on multiple continents.
Clark, F. (2006). One person's thoughts on the future of occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 13, 167-179.
Yerxa, E., Clark, F., Jackson, J., Parham, D., Pierce, D., Stein, C., et al. (1989). An introduction to occupational science, A foundation for occupational therapy in the 21st century. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 6(4), 1-17.