The team identified a number of successful transportation research program administration practices in other countries that can be applied in the U.S. Findings and best practices obtained from the scan will be aggressively disseminated through the transportation research community through a series of presentations, workshops, reports, articles, and web-based activities and discussions. Some of the preliminary recommendations contained herein can be implemented within the existing transportation research infrastructure. Others may require policy-level decisions or even legislation to realize the desired outcome and benefits. The final Scan Implementation Plan developed by the team will include more detailed action items for achieving these goals.
Promote the development and implementation of a national, coordinated, multi-modal transportation research agenda. A renewable forum (continuing and able regenerate as necessary) should be established to bring together transportation stakeholders from government, academia, and industry to create a framework for transportation research in the U.S. The agenda must be collaborative and not directive, and will not preclude the continued delivery of research programs focused on more local or regional needs.
The team observed a number of examples of effective agenda platforms, including the EC framework, Japanese MLIT technology basic plan, and Korean roadmaps. Effective models such as those utilized by the U.S. National Institutes of Health should also be benchmarked. The team believes that an effective forum will be characterized by a fusion of top-down and bottom-up needs. Cross-pollination with other sectors will ensure that overall societal and economic goals are articulated and met. Thematic working groups (e.g. environment, energy, quality of life, asset management) would allow key ideas and perspectives to be collected. Citizen involvement can be obtained through periodic capture of public input. Finally, the agenda-building cycle should include measurable goals, continuous assessment and renewal - improvements based on the assessments.
- Perform an analysis and disseminate information outlining the relative degree of investment in transportation R&D in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. The team observed a strong conviction in each of the visited countries that knowledge and research are fundamental to quality of life, vitality of society, economic growth, and global competitiveness. The link is articulated at the most essential levels of government, for example, the 2000 Lisbon Strategy, a primary action and development plan for the European Union. In the U.S., science and medicine R&D are looked at as progress; in the rest of the world transportation is also viewed in this way. Identification of the key political and economic differences between this and other countries' perceptions toward transportation research is the first step to a sustainable investment in technology.
- Strengthen the innovation process by addressing the missing links between knowledge creation and knowledge application. The team recommends that a policy study be conducted to review the structure of federal transportation research in the U.S., with a focus on the "research institute" model employed in other parts of the world. Such institutes have been shown to provide a bridge that 1) enables successful and highly productive use of the three primary partners in surface transportation research -- government, academia, and industry, and 2) facilitates implementation through economic and societal incentives. Should the study conclude that such a model provides the desired collaborative goals in the U.S., recommendations need to be included outlining how the structure might be established among existing or new U.S. organizations.
- Investigate the effects, applications, and future potentials for intellectual property (IP) rights in the U.S. and abroad. The influence and impacts of both vertical (results not disclosed to competitors) and horizontal (shared) elements play a role in effective research program delivery. Pre-competitive policies can provide incentives for collaboration and implementation. In the U.S., such issues are largely controlled by the Bayh-Dole Act. However, a lack of understanding exists among many U.S. practitioners regarding the limits and treatment of existing law. For the use of federal money, a national-level standard operating procedure should be created for the application of IP, and a forum should be established promoting an international IP platform for the economic and societal benefit of all.
- Build capacity to avert the looming crisis related to the aging work force and loss of knowledge. The issue of attracting and retaining the best students, and the link between today's researchers and tomorrow's practitioners, was a common theme during the scan. Some countries have implemented programs that combine financial incentives, curriculum enhancements, or other promotions to draw students and prepare for the future. Such practices need to be investigated and integrated into U.S. policy.
- Build international relationships and institutionalize cooperation in transportation research to achieve global goals and leverage scarce resources. A number of short- and long-term activities were discussed and will be investigated to implement sustainable collaborative efforts between the U.S. and countries abroad, particularly around global issues such as climate change and highway safety. Among these are meetings and agenda-building workshops; web conferencing; international agreements or memoranda of understanding; committees or working groups; exchange of researchers; newsletter collaboration; and development of standard operating processes for use of cooperative research and development agreements. Accompanying these activities is also a desire to foster use of enhanced technology or other mechanisms to allow collaborative teams to communicate effectively across the world in different time zones without the benefit of face-to-face meetings.
- Integrate and enhance accessible Internet forums, portals or other tools to coordinate information and knowledge resources at a global level. Such a resource is needed to improve awareness of research agendas, ongoing research, and existing collaborations. It should build on existing and ongoing initiatives such as Transportation Research Information Service and the Research-in-Progress database and transportation knowledge networks as promoted under NCHRP 20-75 (Implementing Knowledge Networks). International resources such as those presented in Sweden and the Netherlands should be integrated. Related to this effort, the team envisions a tool that will manage all aspects of the research cycle, for example calls for proposals, inventories of technical knowledge and human expertise, available research opportunities, needs statements, opportunities for collaboration, wiki elements, and cataloging capabilities. The ability to translate materials to other languages will remove barriers and enhance more effective collaboration and information sharing.
- Promote a systematic and consistent practice for continuous research program evaluation and improvement. Practices such as internal and external audit/peer reviews, extended post-implementation evaluations, and impact analyses will enable the transportation community to continually improve on its research investment.
- Obtain documentation of the various collaboration models presented to the TRPA team and engage our international hosts in participating in action items of interest.
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