goals. However, it is less likely than grant research to produce innovation because it is driven by agency need and is not subject to independent peer review.

The committee urges NHTSA to expand its investigator-initiated research program and to implement greater reliance on external peer review for both its contract and grant programs. It is crucial to encourage the publication of results from all types of NHTSA funded research in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and NHTSA may consider accepting publication of journal articles in the peer-reviewed literature in lieu of final reports. NHTSA currently cosponsors one small investigator-initiated research program, the IDEA program (Ideas Deserving of Exploratory Analysis) which funds innovative research in intelligent transportation systems. The program is jointly sponsored by NHTSA, FHWA, and the Federal Railroad Administration with the peer-review process administrated by the NRC's Transportation Research Board (TRB).

To promote greater scientific innovation and quality the committee believes that NHTSA needs to establish formal procedures for independent review of its research plans. One NHTSA research office recently published a five-year draft strategic plan for its research program in the Federal Register.3 In addition to seeking comments, the office plans to follow up with meetings involving outside experts. This is an important step, especially because NHTSA controls much of the country's agenda on highway safety research. The approach taken by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) may serve as a model for NHTSA. FHWA asked the National Research Council's Transportation Research Board (TRB) to review its research plans covering a large amount of research through many different programs.4 Since 1991, a TRB committee,5 consisting of a wide-ranging group of experts in transportation and related fields, has reviewed research plans and made recommendations to the FHWA. A similar strategy could be adopted by NHTSA to improve the quality of its contract research portfolio.

Following the creation of the federal highway safety program in 1966, there was an expansion of extramural research capacity that endured through the early 1970s. When funding leveled off and actually decreased somewhat in constant dollars, many researchers left the field. More recently, funding has expanded somewhat, primarily in engineering disciplines, but there is a ''missing generation" in between. Over the next decade, most of the leadership developed during the early years is destined to retire, without seasoned replacements. If a field of study is to remain vibrant, there must be a commitment to continuity of training and research support, both to attract and train new researchers and to sustain and nourish the growth of those already in the field. Unlike programs for other major health problems and other programs in DOT, funding in highway safety does not include support for graduate study. In order to attract young investigators to the field, support could be provided for graduate education in biomechanics, biosta-

3

The Office of Research and Traffic Records, Research and Evaluation Division.

4

Research spending amounted to $201 million in FY 1993 (TRB, 1994).

5

The Research and Technology Coordinating Committee.



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