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9 is free. Full and affiliate memberships are provided. Full · Is there a problem related to transportation information members must maintain their own information collections and access that merits attention and investment of resources? agree to provide reference and search services and participate in · What products and/or services could address the problem? DOCLINE, the NLM's interlibrary loan service. All members · How should TKN implementation proceed? must agree to provide updated information on their collections and services for the network registry. Members are eligible to Does a Problem Exist that Merits Attention compete for certain funding opportunities. Affiliate members and Investment? far outnumber full members. A central server is hosted for the NN/LM's Web site, wiki, The need for a coordinated approach to information and blog by the University of Washington. The NLM hosts sharing in transportation is well supported by TRB Special DOCLINE from its offices in Bethesda, Maryland. Report 284 and prior investigations of this topic. Interviews conducted for this project and comments on the on-line sur- vey indicated, however, a wide diversity of opinion about the Web Survey nature of the problem and the priority for taking action. For The purpose of the Web survey was to gather input from some, additional investment in information-sharing initiatives transportation researchers, librarians, and practitioners, and is a low priority given extremely tight budgets and difficulties to use this input in developing the business plan for TKNs. in addressing core business needs. Some opined that trans- Requests for responses were e-mailed via the TRB electronic portation professionals don't place a high value on being kept newsletter to AASHTO RAC members, University Transpor- aware of what others have done: engineers derive satisfaction tation Center (UTC) directors, the TranLib Listserv, and the from solving problems by themselves, many workgroups have LTAP Listserv. The e-mail request asked recipients to forward a "not invented here" syndrome, and the profession is rela- the survey to others in their organizations. tively slow moving (in contrast to high tech or medicine), Results reflect responses received between July 4, 2007 and which makes access to the latest information less critical. September 25, 2007. The study team received a total of 150 In contrast, others feel strongly that transportation is far responses. Of these, 126 respondents completed the entire behind other industries in the information sharing arena. They survey; the remaining 24 completed a portion of the survey. feel that there has been significant underinvestment in this area Responses were distributed as follows: that is short sighted and does not make good business sense, particularly in light of the challenges ahead, the need for inno- · 103 (69%) from state DOTs; the remainder from U.S.DOT, vation, and the explosion of available information. One exec- universities, local agencies, and consultants. utive commented that without more attention to information · 39% from managers/executives; 18% from transporta- capture and sharing, organizations inevitably end up "paying tion librarians; remaining 43% from engineers, planners, for the same information more than once." Others expressed researchers, other professionals. frustration about the amount of time it takes to find informa- tion resources--even within their own organizations. A con- Appendix B contains the survey instrument with a sum- venient way to access current information about practice from mary of responses to non-open-ended questions. peers will be of value. Several people interviewed for this proj- Appendix C contains open-ended responses from the sur- ect were particularly concerned about the lack of a coordinated vey. The survey provided a rich source of information on the approach to preservation of valuable information for both cur- information resources currently in use and on unmet informa- rent and future generations of transportation professionals. tion needs. Question 8, which asked what tasks respondents Several examples were cited of permanent information loss or would assign to a full-time personal assistant, yielded detailed risk of loss in the near future. information that can be used to infer the kinds of TKN prod- In the middle of these two extremes are practitioners who ucts and services that would likely be of value. Question 10, feel they can find the information they need to get by, but also which explicitly asked what improvements to information acknowledge that there is certainly room for improvements in would be of most value, and question 11, which asked for information availability, organization, and access. advice on the business plan, yielded a diverse set of opinions The conclusion to be drawn from this diversity of opinion that was extremely helpful in crafting the business plan. is that some segments of the transportation community are extremely receptive to and supportive of information-sharing initiatives. Librarians and information professionals are per- Findings and Conclusions haps the strongest advocates for improvement given their Key findings from both the interviews and the Web survey firsthand and long-standing familiarity with the issues. How- are organized around the following three questions: ever, they are not alone. Their concerns are shared by many
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10 managers, researchers, and practitioners. Other segments of · The TKN initiative should be crafted as a mixture of tech- the community recognize the problem but are not yet "sold" nological, organizational, and programmatic elements that on the solution. They need to see concrete examples of how collectively achieve the intended results. Overemphasis on information-sharing initiatives will help them cope with infor- the coordination and collaboration element without a vis- mation overload, save time or money, or improve their effec- ible product or a concrete idea of services to be provided tiveness. Outreach and education about the nature of the will make it difficult to gain strong support. problem and the benefits of proposed solutions are necessary · There is clear support for action at the national level but less to maximize value from TKN initiatives. clarity of understanding (particularly outside of the library community) about why a regional approach is being pur- sued. This suggests the need for emphasis on national-level What Products and/or Services actions as well as clear communication about the role envi- Could Address the Problem? sioned for the regional TKNs. The most frequently cited need was for a central information · Several people suggested a focus (at least initially) on new repository providing a topically organized "one-stop shopping" technologies, innovation, and emerging issues or "hot top- transportation information source for published documents, ics," rather than a broad-based effort, in the interest of data sets, photographs, contacts, and Web sites. Related to addressing the most pressing need for information sharing. this was the desire for improvements to transportation-specific · While many, particularly in the library community, feel search tools. Another theme in the comments was the need for a need to increase the level of investment in libraries and value-added services to filter, validate, annotate, and package information sharing, others feel that there should not be a information resources. Practitioners were also interested in major new initiative, particularly given today's tight funding mechanisms to support sharing of best practices and lessons climate. To strike a balance between these viewpoints, it will learned among peers. Many people commented on a continu- be important to emphasize that the intent is to improve effi- ing need to capture information beyond nationally sponsored ciencies by providing a much-needed boost and coordina- research reports and to increase access to digital documents. tion mechanism for already-existing information-sharing Library and information professionals emphasized the impor- efforts. tance of cataloging materials so they can be shared across organ- · TKNs need to have elements of centralized and decentral- izations and of preserving materials to ensure their ongoing ized approaches. Many people seem to be looking for a availability. national transportation "one-stop information shop." As expected, researchers, practitioners, executives, and However, many organizations view themselves as the pri- information professionals offered different perspectives on mary source for information within a particular area and what is needed to improve information access. These perspec- do not want to relinquish this role. In addition, transporta- tives do not conflict, but rather represent different elements of tion organizations are looking for solutions to their own a complete, coherent information-sharing strategy. Such a internal information-sharing challenges. Therefore, craft- strategy involves coordinated, interrelated activities to capture, ing a modular approach to information-sharing tools, pro- organize, annotate, filter, catalog, archive, present, and share viding components that can be plugged in to a national information resources. Needs expressed by end users of infor- portal but also made available to individual organiza- mation can and should provide a focus for action in this arena. tions would be an appropriate strategy. An example of this However, it is important to recognize the many upstream approach is the state DOT search engine developed with activities that are required to provide the desired result. These the Google custom search engine, which can be easily incor- activities take place behind the scenes and are often not appar- porated into any Web site. The Online Computer Library ent to end users. Center (OCLC) Open WorldCat search box is another example. · Accountability is critical for this effort. Objectives and How Should Transportation Knowledge performance measures must be clearly defined and mech- Network Implementation Proceed? anisms for continuing evaluation and improvement should Considerable input was obtained on the question of how be established. One suggestion was to establish a TKN TKN implementation should be approached to maximize "brand" that appears on all Web pages associated with value and success. Key findings expressed by the survey recip- TKNs in order to provide wide recognition of what is ients are: being offered.