ARL has released the first volume of the “Research @ ARL” series; this event deserves congratulation. This volume of technical papers, focused on recent advances in Energy and Energetics (available at www.arl.army.mil/ResearchARL), is the first of many planned documents that will help stakeholders to understand the scope and direction of recent accomplishments by ARL’s dedicated and talented staff. Addressing this audience through such technical compendia is desirable and praiseworthy, but it should not be viewed as sufficient to address the fundamental questions asked of every research and development (R&D) organization: How would the U.S. Army be different if ARL had not existed over the past 20 years? and Why should we expect future funding to achieve the hoped-for impacts?
ARL is a scientific and technical (S&T) organization. Most of its funding is of the 6.1 and 6.2 types. Often such organizations measure their effectiveness by identifying technology transitions to others who will carry out the development and technology maturation processes. They have to then convince stakeholders of projected future impact of their efforts. However, in attempting to project the future impact of current programs, any S&T organization is hampered by the inevitable fact that it may take several years or even decades before the full impacts of current programs are realized.
Regardless of how the story is formulated, the stakeholders’ confidence in the laboratory and its management will be bolstered by evidence that the decision making and processes of the present are comparable to or better than those of the past that led to measurable impacts. To tell this story properly, many organizations have had recourse to retrospectively tracing the consequences of R&D events in recent or distant past. ARL last performed this exercise in 1997,1 but there is no recent such activity at ARL.
The full impact of research can only be measured after the fact. Near-term impacts (or transitions) require looking back only a bit and can be monitored during most of the R&D effort. Long-term impacts require deeper historical probes and are more likely to be assessed for only a few notable examples. In both cases, organized processes for gathering and analyzing these data require management attention and designated leadership. Developing these data and presenting them in a manner that is useful for the intended audience is a job best left to professionals specializing in such activities. To achieve these goals, the S&T organization benefits from having an appropriately supported historian with sanctioned access as well as internal report requirements organized to ensure the collection of appropriate data and personal recollections.
It is important to emphasize the potential value of impact analysis for management and staff in the ARL itself. Lessons learned from past efforts can be mined and used to provide context for management self-improvement. New hires can readily learn about the organization’s successes and failures to accelerate their effective participation in laboratory efforts. Not incidentally, awareness of impact of the laboratory’s work can instill a sense of pride and inspiration in all members of the laboratory, with obvious value to all concerned.
This section addresses cross-organizational activities within ARL, which may vary in size from as small as scientist-to-scientist interactions across two directorates to as large as multi-directorate enterprise efforts such as the Network Sciences and Autonomous Systems programs. Organizations whose
1The Genealogy of ARL, ARL-P 360-2, May 1997, ARL, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. Available at http://www.arl.army.mil/www/pages/516/arl_genealogy.pdf (accessed October 15, 2012).