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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research B PROSPECTUS A STUDY OF PHYSICAL INFRASTRUCTURE TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY1 Building Research Board/Geotechnical Board (As approved by the Executive Committee of the Governing Board of the National Research Council, May 14, 1991)2 PROJECT SUMMARY: The Building Research Board (BRB), in cooperation with the Geotechnical Board, has been asked by the NSF's Division of Mechanical and Structural Systems, Directorate of Engineering, to undertake a study to define the state-of-the-art, basic research needs and priorities related to the technology of physical infrastructure. The study, to be conducted over an 18-month period under the general direction of the National Research Council's (NRC) Committee on Infrastructure (and under the auspices of a strategic program on infrastructure being developed by the Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems (CETS) and spearheaded by the BRB), is an outgrowth of a current project3 sponsored in part by the NSF; and the NSF is expected to provide funding of $240,000 for this study. The study is planned to incorporate an active outreach program to expand participation beyond the community of the NSF's interests and thereby enhance the study's impact. Partial support of $40,000 for this outreach program will be sought through NRC funds. It is understood that approval of the NSF-supported study does not imply approval of NRC funds for the outreach program. A separate prospectus has been prepared for the outreach program for consideration by the Presidents' Committee at its May 23, 1991 meeting.4
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research ORIGIN AND BACKGROUND: A primary purpose of the NSF's Division of Mechanical and Structural Systems is to expand fundamental engineering knowledge in the broad areas of solid and geomechanics, structures, construction, geomaterials,5 and building systems engineering, to promote progress in engineering and technology and thereby contribute to national prosperity and security. To this end, the Division has requested that the NRC undertake a study to define the state of the art, basic research needs and priorities in the technology of physical infrastructure. Focused on the fundamental underpinnings of physical infrastructure technology, the study will nevertheless be shaped by the broad national policy debate reflected in a myriad of reports issued in the past decade.6 Within this context, this study will undertake to identify key research needs and opportunities for developing and applying new technical knowledge to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of infrastructure facilities and services. It will build upon other research agenda-setting efforts, including work of the BRB and GEOB and the recent Civil Engineering Research Foundation's ''National Civil Engineering Research Needs Forum.'' A diverse collection of constructed facilities and associated services comprise the physical infrastructure. Despite dependence on many common principles and procedures, each of the major infrastructure "modes" (e.g., bridges or geostructures) is represented by an extensive and specialized body of technical knowledge, professional and managerial people, agencies, institutional relationships, and researchers. This modal diversity inhibits discussion of the cross-cutting issues of infrastructure. Further, serious gaps exist between principal infrastructure technology researchers and state and local government officials and other potential users of this technology. However, a decade of thinking about infrastructure has suggested to some policy analysts that key problems and opportunities in infrastructure may be better understood by considering the common underlying intellectual body of knowledge, science, and technology of infrastructure. This intellectual body is not well defined, but a number of common features of infrastructure have received study, such as the following examples: organic systems of discrete facilities, structures, and users linked together over large areas (e.g., highway or power systems); long-lived facilities expected to provide very reliable service under adverse environmental conditions, often critical to basic life safety, public health, and welfare (e.g., water treatment or power generation plants); a common set of materials, such as steel, concrete, wood, masonry, and geomaterials used in design and construction; extensive use of land, underground space, and aerial, surface, and subsurface connections;
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research complex and sometimes unanticipated environmental and social impacts that might be predictable and avoided or mitigated; and complex sets of factors that influence what physical service characteristics determine acceptable performance. Basic research is needed to develop better operational understanding of this common intellectual body of knowledge and to enhance its applications in practice. Such research—in areas such as behavior of soil-cements and network mathematics—will ultimately provide lessons of crosscutting value for effective infrastructure development and management, leading in turn to enhanced productivity and efficiency in many sectors of the nation's economy. The purpose of the study will be to develop an agenda for this research. This research agenda will present high-priority opportunities the NSF and the research community may use to guide basic infrastructure core research. PROPOSED ACTIVITY: The study will be conducted under the general direction of the NRC's Committee on Infrastructure and under the auspices of the CETS strategic program on infrastructure being spearheaded by that commission's BRB. Initial activities under the program were approved by the Executive Committee of the NRC's Governing Board in December 1989. The NSF and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are among the program's current sponsors. BRB and the Geotechnical Board will provide staff support and, with other relevant NRC units, consultative assistance for this study. The study will be conducted in three principal stages, with most active work occurring within the middle 8 to 12 months of the anticipated 18-month period: Stage One. A series of position papers will be prepared to describe the broad meaning and scope of the intellectual body of knowledge of infrastructure and to discuss the national and global significance of this information. Surveys of relatively recent major advances in infrastructure technology, research agenda reports, and new scientific and engineering discoveries (e.g., in construction, geomaterials, building systems, and other fields) that could become the cutting edge of infrastructure technology will establish a baseline for committee deliberations and detailed plans for Stage Two. Stage Two. Three to four subcommittees will address specific sets of issues in detail. The committee may invite selected experts to participate in this stage of the study, augmenting each subcommittee with two to three such experts. One subcommittee of committee members and staff will integrate all subcommittee materials into a coherent document, and will develop draft committee conclusions and recommendations for committee discussion.
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research Stage Three. The committee will hold two colloquia (in Washington and Irvine) to review and discuss principal issues identified by the committee. Invited participants in these colloquia will include selected federal, state, and local government representatives and others having interest in and responsibility for infrastructure research and technology policy. Based on discussions at these two colloquia, the committee will finalize its recommendations. The report will be subject to NRC report review procedures. PRODUCT AND OUTREACH PLAN: Subject to the committee's deliberations and confirmation, the committee's report is anticipated to address (1) the definition of physical infrastructure as a unified concept, the crosscutting technologies that make the concept meaningful, and the distribution of responsibility for infrastructure technology, performance, and management; (2) the significance of physical infrastructure technology to security and quality of life in the domestic and global economy; (3) the status of modern infrastructure technology, in historic perspective, problems of current technology, and progress on new technology; and (4) a critical review of laboratories, manpower, education programs, and other resources for basic infrastructure technology research. The committee's report, to be reviewed by members of BRB and the Geotechnical Board, will be subject to NRC's report review procedures. This study's significance extends well beyond the NSF's usual constituency, encompassing professional engineering communities and state and local government officials. The support and commitment of this broader community will help assure that the study has effective impact. Hence, subject to securing adequate funding, an active outreach program is planned to (1) alert key members of the infrastructure R&D community about the study, (2) engage potential users of infrastructure R&D (e.g., state and local government officials), (3) engage responsible national policy makers, and (4) enhance thereby the likelihood that the committee's work will have real positive impact. Because this program—to be integrated into the study from its outset—exceeds NSF's interests and resources, financial support is being requested from NRC funds. NOTES 1 This prospectus became the basis for the agreement between NRC and the NSF, to conduct the study, and was presented to the study committee and discussed at their first meeting. 2 The "Outreach Program" referred to in this prospectus was subsequently not approved. That portion of the proposed work was deleted from the committee's charge. Subsequent delays in NSF funding led to revisions in the project plan, including substitution of a single workshop for the two that were initially proposed.
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Toward Infrastructure Improvement: An Agenda for Research 3 Colloquia on Infrastructure for Tomorrow's Metropolis, approved by the Executive Committee of the Governing Board on December 14, 1989. 4 The outreach plan was not funded and was subsequently deleted from the study. 5 Geomaterials include man-made textiles, cementitious materials, and metallic components fabricated explicitly for geotechnical applications, as well as soils and rock modified by chemical or physical means to improve their engineering characteristics. 6 For example, 1984, Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress; 1984, 1987, and 1988, committees of the NRC and National Academy of Engineering; 1988, National Council on Public Works Improvement; and 1990, 1991 (forthcoming), Office of Technology Assessment.
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