identify transitions from basic research, measures are collected on papers published, citations by others, invitations to speak about the work, patents received, and awards conferred. These metrics for assessing research quality are useful for assessing the quality of R&D, as discussed in Chapter 4, but they are often of little interest to those stakeholders and customers whom the organization wishes to satisfy. Organizations that conduct R&D recognize this, and so their reports to stakeholders frequently include anecdotal stories about how research funded many years earlier has found its way into application today.
In many R&D organizations transitions from basic to applied research are frequent, and are often the subject of management decisions. Within an R&D organization additional indicators for examining transitions from basic research are available, but they are less frequently tracked than the obvious outputs in papers and technical talks. Some related questions are the following: Has the technical advance in a particular project opened the door for more applied work? Does the applied work justify additional funding and possibly new hires? These questions may apply whether the basic work was done in-house or extramurally. These questions are regularly asked and decisions are made, but organized records of such transitions are not commonly compiled or recognized as appropriate indicators for judging the basic work.
With respect to assessing the impact of applied research or product development, the situation becomes far more complex. Industry will appropriately focus on its bottom line, and predicted return on investment for the R&D investment can be calibrated against actual sales. Feedback from both failures and successes may be communicated to stakeholders and used to modify future investments. Government organizations rarely have such a direct metric and must search for more information and a structure in order to communicate to their myriad stakeholders.
Four general types of R&D organizations are identified above in Chapter 2: mission-specific, industrial and contract organizations, product-driven organizations (e.g., national laboratories), and universities.
The question of impact is different for each type of organization. Mission-specific organizations in the government and industrial organizations with clearly defined missions are generally considered the underpinning of an organization that includes centers for development, testing and evaluation, and maintenance. Each organization includes management processes designed for transitioning the product of its efforts to the next stage of development and/or application. In many instances these process include ensuring that adequate resources are available so that a transition can indeed occur. Formal agreements often ensure handoffs of responsibility upon completion of the organization’s contributions. These processes offer excellent opportunities for examining the recent past as well as for aiding in the scholarly task of examining the more distant past.
In the NIST laboratories, for example, there are frequently tangible consequences of the R&D work that can be monitored, including standard reference materials sold, data used, and standards developed and promulgated by standards-making bodies. In addition, NIST participates, as do other government labs, in cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) that may be seen as a potential database of relevant transitions. Within such CRADAs, the R&D organization and its partners (other government organizations, universities, and industries) carry out collaborative efforts designed explicitly to transition the results of more basic research toward application. The challenge with respect to providing information supporting assessments is to identify these transitions in a manner that reveals the implications