Click for next page ( 18


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 17
2 Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks The character and productivity of research are influenced by context and process. The social, political, and organizational contexts within which research is conducted in a given country (or group of affiliated countries, such as the European Union) and the processes by which the research is accomplished constitute a “research framework,” as defined in Chapter 1 for the purposes of this report. Chapter 2 sets the stage for the committee’s examination of the cur- rent research framework for surface transportation in the United States, the research frameworks for other countries’ transportation sectors, and the research frameworks for nontransportation sectors domestically. Specifically, this chapter describes the research functions that form a national research framework, and it identifies and discusses the attri- butes associated with each research function that the committee consid- ers most important for an effective U.S. national research framework for surface transportation. Research frameworks inherently involve trade-offs. For example, frame- works that encourage collaboration among many research partners may foster creativity and accelerate innovation, but these frameworks also involve a degree of administrative complexity that limits the ability of the research community to respond quickly to urgent problems. Some frame- works encourage broad multidisciplinary inquiry; others favor research that is narrow in scope. Some frameworks foster major initiatives, and others focus on arrays of smaller efforts that target specific problems. Legislation, funding allocations, and the needs, interests, and capabilities of the orga- nizations that support and conduct the research will all influence which type of framework prevails for a given sector or country. In the committee’s judgment, the best framework for any national or geographic domain is 17

OCR for page 17
18 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future one that uses available resources to support and stimulate a vibrant research enterprise that most effectively meets the needs of the research sponsors and the society at large. FRAMEWORK FUNCTIONS A national research framework encompasses the following essential research functions: • Identification of the role of research in achieving societal goals; • Research agenda setting; • Distribution of funding for specific research activities; • Conduct of research; • Research evaluation; • Dissemination of results; and • Implementation of new knowledge in the form of new or improved products, processes, or policies. These framework functions are discussed in the following paragraphs, with emphasis on an overall perspective. The committee recognizes that differ- ent entities conduct research in different ways and with differing objectives, and the relative importance of the framework functions may vary accord- ingly. For example, private-sector organizations are typically not inter- ested in disseminating their research results if this activity threatens their competitive advantage, and public-sector entities are likely to place greater direct emphasis on societal goals than their private-sector counterparts do. The functions listed should be viewed as elements linked by multiple feedback loops, as illustrated schematically in Figure 2-1, rather than as a linear sequence of steps leading from a clearly defined starting point to a clearly defined end point. Moreover, the functions are not independent activities isolated from one another. Evaluation, for example, is a valu- able activity throughout the entire research and innovation process, both for tracking and improving the various functions and for communicating their benefits to a range of audiences (Ruegg and Jordan 2007). However, to identify useful lessons from other countries’ and sec- tors’ frameworks, the committee found it helpful to examine how indi- vidual functions were addressed. This subdivision by function not only

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 19 Societal Goals Funding Agenda Seƫng EvaluaƟon Research DisseminaƟon ImplementaƟon FIGURE 2-1 Schematic representation of the research functions of a national research framework. facilitated the task of comparing different frameworks but also provided opportunities to select specific effective practices used by other countries and sectors in the event that wholesale adoption of alternative frame- works appeared undesirable or unrealistic. Identification of the Role of Research in Achieving Societal Goals Addressing societal goals often involves not only political and financial mea- sures but also research in science and technology to generate new knowledge, processes, and products that are supportive of those goals. Technical experts, including government employees and external advisers, are charged with linking policies—sometimes formulated at the highest levels—to research needs, thereby providing guidance for research planning. In practice, societal goals, whether formally articulated in pub- lic policy documents or implicit in statutes and regulations, influence research activities both directly and indirectly. For example, the alloca- tion of federal, state, and local government funding for specific research areas, inspired by national goals for issues such as road safety and eco- nomic prosperity, has an obvious direct effect on the scope and nature of research efforts in those areas. Private-sector research, although aiming first and foremost to maximize profits, is nonetheless indirectly influ- enced by statutes, regulations, and standards focused on the public good.

OCR for page 17
20 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future To the extent that such research leads to improved products valued by consumers, it may also increase profitability. Research Agenda Setting The process of identifying and prioritizing the specific research activities that make up a research agenda is complex. A top-down approach is gen- erally used if the research responds to formally articulated societal goals or other national objectives. In contrast, a bottom-up approach identifies research needs based on problems that stakeholders (typically, specific orga- nizations) have encountered in pursuing their own objectives. Research needs identified through a bottom-up process may well be consistent with national goals, even if initially they are not identified as such. For example, research by or for transit agencies to improve riders’ experience may lead to increased ridership, thereby increasing throughput in major corridors and better utilizing the nation’s investment in public transit services. Both top-down and bottom-up approaches to research agenda set- ting usually involve extensive consultation with experts and a variety of stakeholders to determine what is already known, what products and processes are available or under development, and what new knowledge, products, and processes are required. A research agenda is not simply an inventory of research needs, however; it also suggests priorities aimed at informing decisions about how to allocate scarce resources. Establishing those priorities requires in-depth and objective analyses of issues such as risk, technological readiness, schedule, and cost. In addition to pro- spective assessments of anticipated benefits, retrospective evaluations of earlier research may be used to gauge the challenges and risks associated with proposed research activities. Distribution of Funding for Specific Research Activities Balanced Portfolio Experts in research policy and management generally agree that a research portfolio should contain a balance of all types of activity (including research, development, and demonstration) directed at innovation. Funding research activities at various stages along the research pipeline ensures that a continuous source of different types of knowledge is available to support such innovation. Portfolios may include activities aimed at incremental

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 21 improvements, as well as activities that seek major advances with potential for high payoff, although the latter category “tends to be risk[ier] and typi- cally requires longer to complete” than the former (TRB 2001, 7). Funding Strategies Among scientific communities, the tradition of open competition and peer review is widely considered not only the best way for ensuring high-quality research, but also for arriving at sound research-funding decisions (Brach and Wachs 2005). In practice, however, public-sector research-funding organizations employ a variety of approaches for allo- cating funds to specific research activities and for identifying qualified researchers. Associated mechanisms involve varying degrees of competi- tion among researchers and may even eliminate competition altogether, as in the case of congressional earmarks.1 The extent to which funding recipients themselves define the research to be conducted also varies widely. Often researchers play little or no role in delineating the scope of applied or incremental research; that is largely the research sponsors’ responsibility. But investigator-initiated research, in which researchers propose topics and methods within broad areas identified by the funding organization, is often seen as particularly valu- able in seeking innovative (i.e., nonincremental) solutions to problems. Conduct of Research Complex Process Practical experience indicates not only that research involves extensive iteration, but also that the distinctions between research categories (e.g., basic research, applied research, and development) are often blurred. Such categories describe the types of activities involved and the nature of the knowledge sought (see Chapter 3), but they can be misleading because they tend to imply a strict sequence from research to demonstra- tion to ultimate deployment. The reality, however, is far more nuanced and the innovation process is “inherently messy” (Skinner 1997, 4). 1 Earmarking of research funds is said to occur when Congress designates a research area or proj- ect, a funding amount, and a recipient organization that will receive the funds and conduct the research (Brach and Wachs 2005). A moratorium on congressionally directed funding (i.e., earmarks) introduced in the 112th Congress currently remains in place.

OCR for page 17
22 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future Coordination and Cooperation Among Diverse Participants Mission-oriented research involves not only researchers but also a wide range of other stakeholders, including those who apply the research results to develop new or improved products and those who use such products to solve practical problems. Coordination among stakeholders can ensure that resources are wisely used when research activities are funded and per- formed by multiple organizations, each with its own distinct priorities and perspectives. Making information about research activities readily avail- able to interested parties is an effective way to achieve such coordination. When organizations have similar or overlapping objectives, cooperative research programs offer the opportunity to leverage scarce resources. Research Evaluation Research evaluation helps ensure that funds are used judiciously in pur- suit of defined objectives; it also helps to document and communicate benefits as well as gauge the ultimate effectiveness of research initiatives. The extensive literature on research evaluation and performance assess- ment discusses the challenges faced and the methods available; see, for example, Turner (2010) and Ruegg and Jordan (2007). Various evaluation methods address different types of questions about research activities. Peer review and expert judgment, for example, promote the quality and effectiveness of research; research managers often engage expert groups to monitor and assess progress while research activities are under way. Evaluation methods that highlight the outcomes and impacts of research initiatives, such as an economic case study or a history linking research to important industry developments, are more valuable for briefing senior managers, members of Congress, and other high-level decision makers (Ruegg and Jordan 2007). Evaluation meth- ods that examine whether a product works, what it achieves, and its costs are particularly useful for assessing the potential for implementation of a new device or other research product. Dissemination of Results Knowledge gained through research must be shared if it is to help solve problems or stimulate pursuit of further knowledge. Assorted

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 23 mechanisms help researchers meaningfully communicate their results to different audiences. The results of basic research are often shared with other researchers through publication in journals, participation in conferences and work- shops, and membership in groups with common interests, such as pro- fessional societies. The results of applied research, by contrast, are shared not only with other researchers but also with those who apply new knowl- edge to solve practical problems.2 Many conferences are designed to com- mingle researchers and practitioners, facilitate exchange of information about completed research, exhibit and demonstrate research products, and inform researchers about problems being faced by practitioners. Organizations may be explicitly tasked with such knowledge delivery or with the development of standards that move research into practice. Implementation of New Knowledge Implementation of research results is influenced not only by the avail- ability of new knowledge but also by economic, political, and social envi- ronments. Moreover, different areas of research lead to different types of knowledge and thus to different practical applications. The challenges of implementation depend, for example, on the nature of the adopter (e.g., public sector versus private sector), the magnitude and nature of the change, and the type of knowledge involved (e.g., technologi- cal advance versus policy innovation). As a consequence, some results are incorporated into products or processes relatively quickly, while others may experience a time lag of many years between the availability of new knowledge and its eventual application. FRAMEWORK ATTRIBUTES To inform its assessment of alternative frameworks, the committee iden- tified attributes corresponding to each framework function that it deemed influential in determining how well a framework performs in a given context. The framework attributes listed in Table 2-1 were 2 In the case of patentable materials, dissemination may be restricted to avoid a loss of economic value to the company or university conducting the research.

OCR for page 17
24 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future TABLE 2-1 Framework Attributes by Function Function Attribute Identification • Articulates societal goals and the role of research in achieving them of the role of • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective manner research in • Reflects a top-down as well as a bottom-up approach achieving societal • Monitors and fosters assessment of related work in the United States and goals around the world Research agenda • Addresses how the field of endeavor affects national priorities for the econ- setting omy and societal well-being • Provides strategic guidance to relevant national industries, public agencies, and educational institutions • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective manner • Supports appropriate collaboration and partnerships among public, private, and academic sectors • Encourages synergies among different disciplines • Reflects a top-down as well as a bottom-up approach • Supports organizational goals • Reflects short-, mid, and long-term issues and plans • Generates a comprehensive research agenda and funds a balanced research portfolio that includes basic, advanced, and applied research • Values champions for their instrumental role in research program focus and their support of the innovation process • Monitors and fosters assessment of related work in the United States and around the world • Embraces strategies for implementation and addresses intellectual property issues • Reflects lessons learned from previous research Distribution • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective manner of funding for • Generates a comprehensive research agenda and funds a balanced research specific research portfolio that includes basic, advanced, and applied research activities • Engages researchers from universities, agencies, and industry • Promotes quality research through peer-review selection processes and stakeholder reviews of work in progress • Encourages synergies among different disciplines • Values champions for their instrumental role in research program focus and their support of the innovation process • Provides data or evidence that can readily be used for evaluations of ongoing and completed research • Provides institutional structures, incentives, human capital, and financial resources needed to support successful implementation • Develops experts as human capital and educates the next generation of professionals • Demonstrates positive return on investment or measurable improvement in the performance of systems and services • Leverages and supplements knowledge being developed elsewhere • Monitors and fosters assessment of related work in the United States and around the world

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 25 TABLE 2-1 (continued) Framework Attributes by Function Function Attribute Conduct of • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective research manner • Engages researchers from universities, agencies, and industry • Values champions for their instrumental role in research program focus and their support of the innovation process • Generates a comprehensive research agenda and funds a balanced research portfolio that includes basic, advanced, and applied research • Embraces strategies for implementation and addresses intellectual property issues • Supports appropriate collaboration and partnerships among public, private, and academic sectors • Fosters effective working relationships and cooperation among researchers, sponsors, practitioners, industry, and others • Promotes quality research through peer-review selection processes and stakeholder reviews of work in progress • Provides institutional structures, incentives, human capital, and financial resources needed to support successful implementation • Develops experts as human capital and educates the next generation of professionals • Encourages synergies among different disciplines • Monitors and fosters assessment of related work in the United States and around the world Research • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective evaluation manner • Generates a comprehensive research agenda and funds a balanced research portfolio that includes basic, advanced, and applied research • Promotes quality research through peer-review processes and stakeholder reviews of work in progress • Demonstrates positive return on investment or measurable improvement in the performance of systems and services • Provides data or evidence that can readily be used for evaluations of ongoing and completed research • Monitors and fosters assessment of related work in the United States and around the world • Incorporates prospective and retrospective evaluation • Tracks impacts of research outcomes (products, processes, policies) over the long term Dissemination of • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective manner results • Engages researchers from universities, agencies, and industry • Embraces strategies for implementation and addresses intellectual property issues (continued on next page)

OCR for page 17
26 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future TABLE 2-1 (continued) Framework Attributes by Function Function Attribute • Communicates new knowledge and its impacts to a variety of audiences with audience-specific messages and in appropriate social and political contexts • Values champions for their instrumental role in research program focus and their support of the innovation process • Develops experts as human capital and educates the next generation of professionals • Supports appropriate collaboration and partnerships among public, private, and academic sectors • Engages public awareness and support Implementation of • Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders in a timely and cost-effective manner new knowledge • Supports appropriate collaboration and partnerships among public, private, and academic sectors • Engages research providers from universities, agencies, and industry • Embraces strategies for implementation and addresses intellectual property issues • Provides institutional structures, incentives, human capital, and financial resources needed to support successful implementation • Provides incentives for implementation that address social, jurisdictional, institutional, and political challenges • Develops experts as human capital and educates the next generation of professionals • Communicates new knowledge and its impacts to a variety of audiences with audience-specific messages and in appropriate social and political contexts drawn initially from the committee members’ collective experience and expertise. These attributes were subsequently refined to reflect what the committee learned from its examinations of (a) the strengths and weak- nesses of U.S. surface transportation research, (b) other countries’ trans- portation research frameworks, and (c) the research frameworks of U.S. nontransportation sectors. Several attributes are associated with many functions, reflecting the cohesive nature of the complete research pro- cess, from research agenda setting to implementation of new knowledge; other attributes apply only to one or a few functions. From the comprehensive list of attributes in Table 2-1, the commit- tee selected those it deemed most critical to establishing an effective

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 27 national framework for transportation research in the United States. Table 2-2 lists those critical attributes and identifies the research func- tions for which they are most relevant. However, given the diversity of sponsors, researchers, decision makers, and practitioners who are poten- tially guided by a national research framework, a restrictive interpreta- tion of each critical attribute would be inappropriate. Rather, users of the framework need the flexibility to apply the framework through the lens that is most pertinent to them. It would also be inappropriate to pri- oritize these attributes, as no single one is more important than another under all circumstances. The paragraphs below discuss the importance and value of each of the 12 critical attributes listed in Table 2-2. Subsequent chapters pro- vide additional context for these attributes through lessons learned from other countries and sectors, with specific examples to illustrate key points. 1. Engages an Inclusive Set of Stakeholders in a Timely and Cost-Effective Manner Today’s transportation challenges require wide ranges of expertise, experience, and perspective to generate the best solutions. By engaging a diverse set of stakeholders from the public, private, and academic sec- tors who are steeped in the many disciplines related to transportation, the resulting research activities are more likely to succeed in supporting societal goals. Stakeholder participation brings value to all functions within the research framework, but it is especially critical to research agenda setting. The participation of a broad set of stakeholders helps ensure that the research agenda addresses national goals, reflects long-, mid, and short- term research priorities, and enables synergies among different disci- plines. Such participation also facilitates collaboration between public, private, and academic sectors throughout the other framework func- tions and the consensus required to commit funds to a comprehensive research program. The potentially high cost associated with involving many people in numerous research functions can be a possible barrier to success. But

OCR for page 17
TABLE 2-2 Critical Attributes of a National Transportation Research Framework Research Function Identification of Role of Distribution Research in of Funding Achieving Research for Specific Implementation Societal Agenda Research Conduct of Research Dissemination of New Attribute Goals Setting Activities Research Evaluation of Results Knowledge 1. Engages an inclusive set of stakeholders 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 in a timely and cost-effective manner 2. Supports appropriate collaboration and 3 3 3 3 partnerships among public, private, and academic sectors 3. Reflects a top-down as well as a bottom- 3 3 up approach 4. Generates a comprehensive research 3 3 3 3 agenda and funds a balanced research portfolio that includes basic, advanced, and applied research 5. Engages researchers from universities, 3 3 3 3 agencies, and industry 6. Promotes quality research through peer- 3 3 3 review selection processes and stake- holder reviews of work in progress

OCR for page 17
7. Monitors and fosters assessment of 3 3 3 3 3 related work in the United States and around the world 8. Embraces strategies for implementation 3 3 3 3 3 and addresses intellectual property issues 9. Provides the institutional structures, 3 3 3 incentives, human capital, and financial resources needed to support successful implementation 10. Develops experts as human capital and 3 3 3 3 educates the next generation of profes- sionals 11. Communicates new knowledge and its 3 3 impacts to a variety of audiences with audience-specific messages and in appro- priate social and political contexts 12. Demonstrates positive return on invest- 3 3 ment or measurable improvement in the performance of systems and services

OCR for page 17
30 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future if the collaboration processes are well designed, they may engage stake- holders in a timely, affordable, and cost-effective manner. 2. Supports Appropriate Collaboration and Partnerships Among Public, Private, and Academic Sectors When organizations have similar or overlapping research objectives, collaborating or creating partnerships to achieve shared goals may be beneficial. Multiple groups working together are able to leverage scarce human and financial resources, which helps ensure that these resources are used wisely and effectively. Collaboration also encour- ages the engagement of diverse expertise, experience, and perspectives, thereby presenting opportunities to bring needed skills to a research program. Appropriate partnerships in which participants have the flex- ibility to determine the type and level of collaboration that makes sense for the specific situation create a result that is greater than the sum of the parts. 3. Reflects a Top-Down as Well as a Bottom-Up Approach Identifying and meeting the broad array of transportation research needs cannot be driven exclusively by high-level, long-term, strategic research initiatives or by short-range, applied, and incremental research activities. Both approaches are needed to ensure that research reflects the evolving demands and opportunities associated with environmental, techno- logical, and social changes. A top-down approach reflects the larger societal vision and responds to broader issues; a bottom-up approach captures specific concerns and practical issues identified by stakehold- ers. Exclusive reliance on a top-down approach risks missing oppor- tunities for the immediate solution of practical problems. Exclusive reliance on a bottom-up approach may neglect topics of industry- wide, national, or global importance. A framework that encourages both approaches and that allows for interaction between them is best able to address the breadth and depth of research needs. In addition, research users include all levels of government, the private sector, and users of the transportation system, and integrating top-down and bottom-up approaches appears to be the most promising way of engaging all stakeholders.

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 31 4. Generates a Comprehensive Research Agenda and Funds a Balanced Research Portfolio That Includes Basic, Advanced, and Applied Research The benefits of research, whether expressed in new products, processes, knowledge, or policies, depend on continuous flows of discovery and innovation, often characterized as the “research pipeline.” Tomorrow’s innovation depends on today’s new research perspectives, approaches, and findings that represent and integrate a wide range of disciplines, top- ics, modes, and processes. The research pipeline also needs elements of basic, advanced, and applied research. With such elements in place, the enterprise can address research questions, accumulate knowledge, and derive and evaluate solutions. 5. Engages Researchers from Universities, Agencies, and Industry Research is conducted by educational institutions, government agencies, and private companies (including independent research contractors), with each of these sectors having its own particular research interests and capabil- ities. Educational institutions’ research tends to take a long-term view, and the role of research in training may be as important as its role in problem solving. Government agencies, by contrast, often have a short- to medium- term view; their research typically addresses issues of a technological or political nature. Federal laboratories may well be the last repository of large research groups able to explore major problems as a team. Private industry tends to carry out research that is highly applied and that often crosses over into product development. Although most of this industrial effort focuses on the short term, it may include elements of long-range research for stra- tegic purposes. In addition, independent contractors undertake a variety of research efforts for both government agencies and private industry. Given these differences in research perspectives, it is critical that a national research framework actively engages all three sectors. 6. Promotes Quality Research Through Peer-Review Selection Processes and Stakeholder Reviews of Work in Progress One of the pillars of scholarly research is the peer-review process, which seeks to ensure quality research. Peer review typically examines not only

OCR for page 17
32 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future the credentials of the researchers themselves, but also the context of the proposed or ongoing research, its inherent strategies, the validity of the research methods used, related activities of other investigators (for comparison), evaluation approaches, and the research’s intended applications. Researchers have a wide range of experience with peer review. Aca- demic researchers publishing in scholarly journals are generally famil- iar with the process. Government agencies also adopt elements of peer review in their research selection and progress evaluation procedures; independent oversight by expert panels, for example, is common. Private industry uses panels of external scientific advisers to review its research agendas and provide guidance on an enterprise’s research and develop- ment strategy. Although most often applied to research selection and progress evaluation, in whatever sector, the principles of peer review can be applied to virtually all aspects of the research process. 7. Monitors and Fosters Assessment of Related Work in the United States and Around the World Although the term “national research framework” implies a national focus, a country’s highly productive research enterprise must also be informed by research at the local, state, and international levels. Aware- ness of the full range of ongoing, completed, and planned research is essential to a nation’s agenda setting, research design, and interpretation of results. The monitoring and assessment of U.S. research, in particular, must be continuous if it is to keep pace with a rapidly expanding inter- national research community. In addition, benchmarking U.S. research activities against those of other countries offers opportunities to learn about best practices adopted elsewhere. 8. Embraces Strategies for Implementation and Addresses Intellectual Property Issues Compelling societal needs, as well as the expectations of research spon- sors and the public at large, demand that research embrace application of results as part of its life cycle. A robust research framework takes advantage of all available means (including publication, demonstration,

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 33 commercialization, standards development, training, and policy analy- sis, design, and implementation) to advance research to deployment. Implementation mechanisms should thus be envisioned, planned, and initiated from the inception of research to beyond its completion. An effective framework also treats intellectual property as a valuable asset for motivating research and advancing its application. The frame- work encourages stewardship of intellectual property, whether nation- ally or internationally and at both the precompetitive and competitive stages, to promote adoption and additional development of the resulting technology. 9. Provides the Institutional Structures, Incentives, Human Capital, and Financial Resources Needed to Support Successful Implementation Successful implementation of the results of research depends on a vari- ety of factors, some of which, such as the type of change involved or the nature of the adopter, may introduce unpredictability into the imple- mentation function. But regardless of the specific factors in each case, four elements are essential to successful implementation: institutional structures, incentives, human capital, and financial resources. That is, in an environment for successful implementation, (a) institu- tions sustain a culture that supports innovation and risk taking, allows for failure, and provides a leadership structure that holds staff account- able for implementation; (b) financial and other incentives encourage adopters to risk implementing new knowledge; (c) sufficient human capital is in place to champion, disseminate, communicate, demonstrate, practice, and train adopters; and (d) adequate financial resources are committed to ensuring that implementation efforts have the opportu- nity to succeed. 10. Develops Experts as Human Capital and Educates the Next Generation of Professionals At educational institutions, a major function of research is the training of professionals for careers in relevant fields. Government agencies and industry need practitioners, researchers, and managers whose value to

OCR for page 17
34 Framing Surface Transportation Research for the Nation’s Future the employer derives in large part from their academic training. Govern- ment and industry can likewise contribute directly by providing internal training opportunities and sponsoring programs or events at academic institutions. 11. Communicates New Knowledge and Its Impacts to a Variety of Audiences with Audience-Specific Messages and in Appropriate Social and Political Contexts Historically, research results have been communicated through reports written for an academic or technical readership, but this approach often fails to convey the impacts of the research to other audiences who also would benefit from the new knowledge. Examples of such audiences and their unique information needs include policy makers, who must under- stand the potential policy impacts of the results; practitioners, who must use the new knowledge in their daily work; and the media, which seek to convey new knowledge to the general public. Communication experts, skilled at extracting research results from technical reports and transforming them into key messages tailored to specific audiences’ information needs, are critical players on a research institution’s team. Their well-crafted communication products can explain the research, document its potential benefits, report on its ultimate effec- tiveness, and inform policy makers about how the research may help to achieve societal goals. 12. Demonstrates Positive Return on Investment or Measurable Improvement in the Performance of Systems and Services Research sponsors, including the general public, are increasingly con- cerned with realizing tangible value from their research investments. Although research evaluation often remains informal and ad hoc, the systematic measurement of research benefits could better quantify value. By acquiring the requisite data in each case and using appropri- ate information systems, research providers may enhance performance measurement and analysis sufficiently to articulate the payoff of research initiatives.

OCR for page 17
Building Blocks of National Research Frameworks 35 The committee drew on the research functions and attributes described above in identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the current U.S. sur- face transportation research enterprise (Chapter 3) and in analyzing the information it gathered from other countries’ transportation research organizations (Chapter 4) and from U.S. nontransportation research organizations (Chapter 5). REFERENCES Abbreviation TRB Transportation Research Board Brach, A., and M. Wachs. 2005. Earmarking in the U.S. Department of Transportation Research Programs. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Vol. 39, No. 6, pp. 501–521. Ruegg, R., and G. Jordan. 2007. Overview of Evaluation Methods for R&D Programs: A Directory of Evaluation Methods Relevant to Technology Development Programs. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy. http://www1. eere.energy.gov/ba/pab/pdfs/evaluation_methods_r_and_d.pdf. Skinner, R. E., Jr. 1997. Ten Theses About Transportation Research. TR News, No. 189, March–April, pp. 3–5. TRB. 2001. Special Report 261: The Federal Role in Highway Research and Technology. TRB, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Turner, J. 2010. Best Practices in Merit Review: A Report to the U.S. Department of Energy. Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Washington, D.C.