U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
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The team identified a number of successful transportation research program administration practices in the host countries that can be applied in the United States. This chapter outlines the STIP, including a brief discussion of and implementation strategies for each item. The timeframe for implementing the STIP items ranges from the time the team returned to the United States through 2011 and beyond.
Findings and best practices obtained from the scan will be widely disseminated throughout the transportation research community through presentations, workshops, reports, articles, and Web-based activities and discussions. Some of the recommendations and implementation strategies can be implemented within the existing transportation research infrastructure. Others may require policylevel studies and international joint activities to realize the desired outcomes and benefits.
Build international relationships and institutionalize cooperation in transportation research to achieve global goals and leverage knowledge and resources.
While the scan focus was research program administration, the team realized its presence in other countries would provide avenues for developing new research relationships and potential collaboration opportunities with international counterparts, particularly on global issues such as climate change and highway safety. All of the international host organizations expressed a desire for expanded collaborative research efforts with the United States. They also made repeated references to a need for better information sharing and global technology transfer of innovations. Several host countries, for example, expressed interest in the research program performance measures product developed through NCHRP.
Efforts are already underway to institutionalize cooperation in transportation research between the European community and the United States. An MOU signed in 2006 by TRB and its closest European counterpart, ECTRI, has facilitated improved communication and cooperative opportunities abroad and is a model for expanded efforts moving forward.
An MOU signed by TRB and KICTEP in spring 2008 is intended to facilitate information exchange between KICTEP and SHRP2, the second Strategic Highway Research Program. TRB leaders reported that considerable enthusiasm was expressed at the Transport Research Arena Europe 2008 meeting in Ljubljana, Slovenia, for more cooperation and collaboration, and a joint AASHTO-FHWA-TRB meeting was held in July 2008 to discuss institutionalizing such partnerships. The scan team's implementation activities should include monitoring and enhancing these ongoing efforts.
The scan team discovered that a number of other isolated partnerships exist between agencies, institutes, universities, and companies abroad and U.S. counterparts. Projects including researchers from the University of Minnesota, North Carolina State University, and the Texas Transportation Institute were cited. These efforts are not widely known in the U.S. transportation research community and more could be done to publicize such relationships.
Scan team implementation will consist of the following:
Promote the development and implementation of a nationally coordinated, multimodal transportation research framework.
To remain globally competitive and continue to improve the quality of life for U.S. citizens, it is critical for the Nation to be an active player in the research community. There must be collaboration throughout the Nation to unleash the brilliance of its researchers and identify a national research framework that unites the various sectors of the country behind common research goals or themes.
With this in mind, the scan team believes that a policy study should be done to analyze the current process of many independently run research programs and evaluate the benefits of a nationally focused program in which more research dollars are spent on a few highly critical areas. The study would evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that may evolve from a national program, compared to the value of the current system for determining research products. The policy study would include not just partners in the transportation community, but also bring in expertise from sectors such as the environmental and energy communities to see how transportation might better leverage research funds. As input to this study, a national forum could be conducted to bring together transportation stakeholders from government, academia, and industry to pursue a policy study that looks at the needs, benefits, barriers, and overall process in developing a national research framework.
If the results of the review point to a coordinated national program, the study would recommend a process to develop a coordinated national framework for U.S. transportation research. The framework must be collaborative and not directive, and allow for the continued delivery of research programs focused on more local or regional needs in addition to national needs.
The team observed several examples of effective platforms, including the European Union framework, Japanese MLIT Technology Basic Plan, and South Korean roadmaps. In addition, models such as that used by the National Institutes of Health would be productive benchmark candidates. The team believes that an effective forum to approach the framework development effort will be characterized by a fusion of top-down and bottom-up needs from all parts of the Nation impacted by transportation. 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, and asset management) would allow key ideas and perspectives to be collected. Citizen involvement can be obtained through periodic capture of public input. Finally, the frameworkbuilding cycle would include measurable goals, continuous assessment and renewal, and improvements based on the assessments.
Implementation will consist of the following:
Strengthen the innovation process by examining international research institutes and other models of collaboration to link knowledge creation and knowledge application.
In the United States, a gap frequently exists between the creation and application of knowledge. Sponsors of research, usually government agencies, often attempt to bridge that gap by requiring knowledge creators to identify a process or plan for pushing the knowledge toward application, but too often this is done without the involvement of or connection to industry. The result is that much new knowledge falls short of its full innovation potential because the necessary collaborative structure does not exist to support success.
The scan team learned that the host countries use research institutes to bridge the gap between knowledge creation and knowledge application. Institutes often are the venues that bring together the knowledge creation, knowledge management, and knowledge application aspects of R&D and foster transportation partnerships and collaboration that lead to effective innovation.
Without exception, each host country had some form of research institute that is a primary vehicle to either fund and financially manage or foster, house, and accomplish collaborative research efforts. The formation and structure of the research institutes varied from country to country, but each example brought together government, government-funded independent organizations, academia, and industry to more effectively respond to the national strategic framework in collaboration than each organization could on its own. The United States does not have comparable unique entities to facilitate collaborative research on this level. Some U.S. structures can accomplish portions of the roles of these institutes, but such integration of responsibility in one institutional structure is clearly a non-U.S. model.
Implementation will consist of the following:
Investigate the effects, applications, and potential for intellectual property rights in the United States and abroad.
The transportation research community is charged with finding solutions to problems. Those solutions often involve new processes and technologies that represent intellectual property with potential economic value.
Among countries visited in the scan, the transportation research community demonstrated a noticeably greater concern for the value and importance of intellectual property than is sometimes evident in the United States. Safeguarding intellectual property was recognized as a critical component of the entire research process to spur innovation, encourage investment for technology development and refinement, and foster commercialization nationally and internationally. Ultimately, intellectual property was seen as a means to bolster national economies by adding companies that hire new employees and sell new products. Successful management of intellectual property was associated with greater trade and foreign global investment.
In the United States, public agencies have traditionally taken the position that they should retain rights to intellectual property derived from their research. While the intent of this policy has been to maintain public ownership of intellectual property, an unintended result has been to impede development. Frequently, Federal agencies have lacked the resources and impetus to commercialize technology or license it to others, and in the absence of intellectual property protection, private concerns have been reluctant to invest in its development. Other public agencies, such as State DOTs, have taken a similar approach with similar results. In contrast, organizations visited during the scan viewed protection and licensing of intellectual property as essential enablers of technology deployment.
Furthermore, many transportation agencies in the United States lack effective policies on employees' rights to intellectual property. For example, any new product or idea that relates to a Federal agency's goals and objectives is owned by the agency because Federal employees are required to assign their intellectual property rights to the government. Undefined policies or policies that preclude employees from sharing intellectual property rights create little incentive for innovation in State and Federal transportation agencies.
A significant barrier to more effective management of intellectual property is the lack of understanding among public transportation agencies of domestic and international intellectual property law. Although the Bayh-Dole Act governs intellectual property developed in federally sponsored research, Federal and State agencies often lack expertise on the fairly complicated and often expensive processes needed to secure and protect intellectual property rights domestically or internationally. Few public transportation agencies have legal staff or retain counsel specializing in intellectual property law.
Finally, differences between intellectual property laws can complicate or frustrate protection and licensing between organizations in different countries. Organizations in nearly every country visited during the scan voiced questions and concerns about international intellectual property rights.
Integrate and enhance accessible databases, Internet forums, portals, or other platforms to coordinate information and knowledge resources at a global level.
The development of common platforms for a variety of elements in the research cycle would substantially reduce barriers for R&D collaboration and international partnerships and promote more extensive use of research results. Improved awareness of research agendas and existing collaborations, intellectual property issues, sharing of research expertise for peer review activities, and widespread information exchange are just a few of the areas that could benefit from the development of linked databases, common access portals, or other platforms among global R&D collaborators.
The scan team believes that such a platform should build on existing or ongoing initiatives, such as TRIS, the RiP database, transportation knowledge networks discussed in TRB Special Report 284, Transportation Knowledge Networks, work being done through NCHRP Project 20-75, "Implementing Transportation Knowledge Networks," and Web tools being implemented through the TRB Conduct of Research and AASHTO RAC Task Group on Coordination and Collaboration. Existing international resources such as those presented in Sweden and the Netherlands should be integrated. Sweden's VTI Library and Information Center, for example, has already established contact with the TRB Library.
Items for cooperation include incorporating research reports into the countries' respective information databases through the use of common platforms for information sharing. In addition, the European Union's CORDIS and in the United States the National Science Foundation's model for accepting and cataloging requests for proposals should be benchmarked.
The team envisions a tool that facilitates all aspects of the research cycle, including needs statements, opportunities for collaboration, available research opportunities, calls for proposals, research in progress, Web discussions, inventories of technical knowledge and human expertise, cataloging capabilities, and model operating processes for use in cooperative R&D agreements. Wiki elements and the ability to translate materials to other languages would remove barriers and enhance more effective collaboration and information sharing.
Implementation will consist of the following:
Promote a systematic and consistent practice for continuous research program evaluation and improvement.
The scan team considered performance, quality, and value of research programs as important factors for sustaining credible research programs. In light of this interest, host countries were asked how program quality and value were determined or measured, and how the results were communicated to sponsors and stakeholders. Were evaluations or performance measures used at both the program and project levels? Were both tangible and intangible benefits considered? Among the U.S. transportation research community it is generally perceived that demonstrating the performance, quality, and value of research programs is essential to maintain or increase limited research funding.
In each host country visited, the value of funding and conducting research was considered intrinsic to achieving societal and economic goals. That research is valued is a given, so there was not as much concern about using performance measures or indicators for program justification. However, several host countries presented extensive evaluation schemes for process and outcome improvements at both the programmatic and individual project levels. There was substantial interest in the Performance Measurement Toolbox created in NCHRP Project 20-63, "Performance Measurement Tool Box and Reporting System for Research Programs and Projects."
Sweden presented a continuous evaluation process that began before the program started with an ex ante logic impact assessment, followed by periodic evaluations during the conduct of research, an ex post evaluation, and a cross-cutting impact analysis study. South Korea has a similar whole-cycle project management process that takes a project from conception through implementation. Japan presented a detailed document issued by the Office of the Prime Minister providing National Guidelines for Evaluating Government-Funded R&D. This document covers evaluations at both the program and project levels. It includes the basic concepts of R&D evaluations, principles for conducting the evaluation, and evaluation criteria and indicators for the programs, research organizations, and individual researchers.
There may be models and techniques for both program and project evaluation that should be shared with U.S. transportation research administrators and program managers. Internal and external audits and reviews, extended post-implementation evaluations, and impact analyses can enable the transportation community to improve on its research investment. The finely detailed evaluation criteria and definitions are well thought through and provide opportunities for systematic and continuous evaluation.
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