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Chapter 1: Introduction

Scan Objectives and Primary Themes

Scan Objectives

There are exemplary international transportation research programs and activities that have mature and successful research administration processes. Recognizing that this rich body of knowledge is available to U.S. research managers, the Transportation Research Program Administration scan team set objectives to examine the management and administrative practices, policies, and experiences of other countries to better understand how they administer their research programs to solve difficult problems, produce more rapid adoption of innovation, and create more value for their research results. The team realized that its presence in the countries visited would also provide avenues for developing research partnerships and collaboration opportunities because this unique circumstance would promote information sharing and technology transfer with international counterparts.

This scan is the first dedicated solely to research program management practice. The scan topic originated through discussions among State DOT research managers committed to improving the effectiveness of research program activities and increasing the stewardship of the resources directed to research. This scan is especially important to the U.S. transportation research community because it addresses program-level activities rather than technical project-based efforts, and it provides concepts that can significantly enhance research program management in the United States. The scan vision was that benefits from learning about and applying other countries' successful administrative practices would not only have an impact on State DOT research programs, but also could cascade to other transportation research activities in academia, the private sector, and other organizations important to transportation research in the United States.

The scan was conducted through the International Highway Technology Scanning Program, jointly sponsored by FHWA and AASHTO in cooperation with TRB's NCHRP, the private sector, and academia.

Four Primary Themes

The scan team identified four primary themes that describe its areas of interest. Each theme incorporates an aspect of the research administrative process from early stage, establishing the research framework, to late stage, getting the research results into widespread practice. The scan team also developed a series of amplifying questions (see Appendix A) detailing the information it sought within each theme.

In the context of these four themes, the team focused on how the host countries administer their research programs and projects—the methods, techniques, and tools used to accomplish the broad spectrum of administrative functions. The scan team also investigated the roles, responsibilities, and working relationships among research entities in the various countries and within their international domains.

The following are the four themes:

  1. Establishing the research framework— Practices used to determine where to put the emphasis and effort to solve current problems and emerging issues on local, national and federal, and international levels
  2. Partnership models and joint research activities— Methods of cooperation that enhance technical capacity and increase fiscal and other resources required for research
  3. Conduct of research: performance, quality, and value—Tools and processes used to measure the performance, quality, and value of research programs and projects
  4. Delivery: getting research results into widespread practice—Keys to enhancing the effectiveness of deployment and increasing the use of research results

Amplifying Questions

The scan team was particularly interested in how international transportation research programs and projects are managed. Through discussion with international counterparts, the team wanted to better understand the methods and techniques used to accomplish the broad spectrum of administrative responsibilities for research activities. To assist in determining this information, the team developed a list of detailed questions that were submitted to the organizations visited before the team's arrival. The amplifying questions were translated into the language of each country visited to provide clarity and enhance understanding for those who graciously gave their time and expertise to meet with the team. The amplifying questions were organized into four primary themes reflecting the team's interest. Questions within the four themes address the processes used, motivation for those processes, and successful practices. The team also asked about specific program level practices and differences between the treatment of program- and project-level activities. The questions enabled the host organizations to structure their presentations on the major themes and guide group discussions. The amplifying questions are in Appendix A.

A glossary was distributed with the amplifying questions to assist the international contacts in understanding terminology that may have uniquely U.S. connotations. The glossary is in Appendix B.

Desk Scan

A review of international programs, called a desk scan, was prepared for the scan team to assist in determining the countries and research programs that would be most productive to visit. The report included information collected by e-mail, personal contacts, and Internet search. The desk scan identified key issues and opportunities and provided a broad summary of the activities and focus of transportation research programs worldwide.(1) From this document and the experiences of the International Technology Scanning Program staff, the scan team determined the most likely candidates for the scanning study. In addition to assisting the team in its decisionmaking, the desk scan is a useful resource that provides an overview of global transportation research program efforts.

Scan Organization

The scan team selected the organizations visited based on the potential to gain administrative management knowledge and apply transportation research program practices to similar contexts in the United States. The team also wanted to make best use of the opportunity to form or better solidify relationships with excellent transportation research programs worldwide. The team met with executive-level research program managers, including country managers of research activities and seniorlevel technical researchers. Host organizations presented the administrative complexities of their programs and provided the technical context in which the various administrative practices are applied.

The scan team divided its time during the 2-week study by spending 1 week in Europe and 1 week in Asia. In Europe, the team visited the European Commission (EC), EU transportation research stakeholder organizations, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. In Asia, the team met with officials in Japan and South Korea, as well as transportation research stakeholder organizations in both countries. Table 1 details the countries, host organizations, programs, and dates visited. The 2-week scan timeframe limited the number of countries and organizations the team could visit. However, the scan topic was well received by all host countries, and several European organizations scheduled meetings with the scan team during its visit to the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Visits to the other host countries also were organized to facilitate meetings with a variety of research organizations in one area or location, minimizing the travel time for the team and maximizing the time it could interact with a significant cross-section of transportation research program officials.

A list of the international contacts who participated in scan team meetings is in Appendix C.

Team Composition

The members of the Transportation Research Program Administration scan included representatives from FHWA field, program, and research offices; four State DOTs (one from each AASHTO region); the private sector, including Ford Motor Company (a large private enterprise) and B. T. Harder, Inc. (a small private enterprise); TRB; and the University of Minnesota. The variety of team member perspectives enabled a robust approach to the outcome of the scan that addressed the interests of the government, the private sector, and academia—all necessary parts of U.S. transportation research efforts.

Table 1. Host countries, organizations, and programs visited.
Country/LocationOrganization/ProgramDates Visited
  • Swedish VINNOVA
  • Swedish Road Administration (SRA)
April 13-14, 2008
The Netherlands
  • Rijkswaterstaat Transport and Navigation Department
  • Institute for Road Safety Research (SWOV)
  • TNO, Dutch private research contractor
April 15, 2008
European Commission and European Union Transportation Research Stakeholders
  • EU European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) Transport and Road programs
  • Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL)
  • European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC)
  • ECTRI, including Hellenistic Institute of Transport, French National Institute for Transport and Safety, Transport Research Center of the Czech Republic, Polytechnic University of Madrid, German Aerospace Center, VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, and KTI Institute for Transport Sciences of Hungary
April 16-17, 2008
  • French National Road Agency, General Highways Department
  • Department for Research and Scientific and Technical Coordination
  • National Institute for Transport and Safety Research (INRETS)
  • French LCPC
  • Program of Research, Experimentation, and Innovation in Land Transport (PREDIT)
April 18, 2008
  • Institute for Transport Policy Studies (ITPS)
  • Institute of Behavioral Sciences (IBS)
  • Japan Institute of Construction Engineering (JICE)
  • MLIT
  • National Institute for Land and Infrastructure Management (NILIM)
  • Public Works Research Institute (PWRI)
  • Mitsubishi Research Institute
  • University of Tokyo
April 21-23, 2008
South Korea
  • Korea Transport Institute (KOTI)
  • Korean Institute of Construction Technology (KICT)
April 24-25, 2008

Scan team members are listed below. Contact information and biographic information are in Appendix D.

Debra Elston (FHWA Cochair), Director, Office of Corporate Research and Technology, FHWA Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center

David Huft (AASHTO Cochair), Research Program Manager and Intelligent Transportation Systems Coordinator, South Dakota DOT

Barbara T. Harder (Report Facilitator), Principal, B. T. Harder, Inc. Joyce curtis, Director of Field Services–North, FHWA

Monique R. Evans, Administrator, Office of R&D, Ohio DOT

Christopher W. Jenks, Director, Cooperative Research Programs, TRB

Laurie McGinnis, Associate Director, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota

Harold R. "Skip" Paul, Director, Louisiana Transportation Research Center, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development

Glenn Roberts, Chief of Research, Bureau of Materials and Research, New Hampshire DOT

Eric Wingfield, Knowledge Specialist, Information Technology: Strategy and Organizational Development, Ford Motor Company

J. B. "Butch" Wlaschin, Director, Office of Asset Management, FHWA 12

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