consistent with the parent’s mission and vision.1,2 Additionally, the organization may write its own mission and vision statements. (It is important to keep in mind, when discussing these missions, which is meant.) The output of an organization depends on the kind of work that it is commissioned to do. R&D organizations perform a variety of technical work. Some conduct fundamental, long-term research; some do applied research; others do developmental work; still others support technical efforts leading to production and marketing or to implementation of new processes. Some organizations do all of the above. Effective assessments are structured to take into account what the organization is aspiring to do.

Research and development can be examined by considering three phases of the R&D: the planning stage, ongoing research, and evaluation of the relevance and impact of the R&D activities. In the planning stage, prior to launching a project, an organization develops goals for the projects, selects strategies and tactics intended to reach these goals, identifies needed personnel, and lists methods, including metrics, to assist in evaluating progress. Planning is done and assessed in the context of the organization’s mission. Assessing ongoing research, the most common subject of assessments, includes reviewing and evaluating the technical projects and considering the quality of the research staff and management, the facilities, and the capital equipment. An effective assessment compares the program to the parent’s mission and vision. Relevance can be assessed by comparing the organization’s portfolio with expressed needs of customers in terms of the substance of the work and of its priorities. Retrospective analyses of programs may be made at various times following the completion of research and development activities. Many of the same metrics used to evaluate work in progress are useful in examining an R&D program after its completion.


A comprehensive assessment evaluates three elements: management, technical quality, and impact. Aspects of these three elements may overlap. For example, the quality of the workforce falls under both management actions and quality of the work. Quality of the work will also be covered in considering impacts. Determining the relevance of the work is a key role of management.

Assessing Management

Customers and Stakeholders

An effective assessment begins with considering how well management of the organization has identified its mission and vision as they are aligned with those of the parent. The assessment involves identification of the stakeholders and customers of the organization. A key question is how management stays in close contact with these groups and how well it responds to changing demands. For organizations that are focused on a limited number of customers, contacts can be made directly with the ultimate users of the results. For other


1 National Research Council, 2002. Future R&D Environments: A Report for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.

2 J. Sommerer, 2012. “Assessing R&D Organizations: Perspectives on a Venn Diagram.” Presentation at the National Research Council Workshop on Best Practices in Assessment of Research and Development Oganizations, March 19, Washington, D.C.

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