The National Academies

NCHRP 20-68A(02) [Active]

US Domestic Scan Program

  Project Data
Funds: $3,310,592
Includes supplemental funding for selected scans provided by FHWA
Staff Responsibility: Andrew C. Lemer
Research Agency: Arora and Associates, P.C.
Principal Investigator: Harry Capers
Effective Date: 12/28/2012
Completion Date: 12/26/2018

The NCHRP US Domestic Scan Program is intended to accelerate the rate of innovation among state departments of transportation (DOTs) and the industry generally by encouraging the spread of new ideas and effective transfers of technology among and within agencies. Initiated in CY 2007, NCHRP Project 20-68A enables DOT staff members to learn from colleagues about innovative practices that could be beneficially adopted by other interested agencies.  Scan participants not only apply the insights gained within their own agencies but also present what they have learned to others and thereby further disseminate new ideas. A contractor was engaged for an initial 3-year term to manage the program logistics. The contract was extended for a second 3-year term. During this 6-year period, FHWA supplemented annual allocations of NCHRP funds for a few selected scans. Topics of scans conducted or in process under the current contractor’s supervision are listed on the NCHRP project web page. (http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=1570) Reports of completed scans are available through links from that web page. The activities described in this request are intended to continue the domestic scan program for another 3 to 6 years, subject to availability of funds. The number of scans conducted each year will depend on the costs of specific scans as well as on funds available. Contractor billings to NCHRP for scans completed to date have ranged between approximately $150,000 and $225,000 (including program management overhead); the median cost for the first 9 completed scans was $173,000. However, the current request entails activities not included in earlier scans. NCHRP funding has been approved for FY2013 at $600,000. NCHRP plans to request additional funds each year for the program’s continuation. If annual NCHRP funding of the program remains constant and without consideration of funds that may be provided by FHWA or others, the total contract amount envisioned in this request would be $3,600,000.
As currently designed, the NCHRP program includes three types of scans. A Type 1 scan involves visits by a team of 8 to 10 people to host sites, often geographically dispersed, where innovative practices have been applied. Each such scan might require 1 or 2 trips of approximately 1-week duration; the visits are planned to avoid requiring scan-team members to be away from their own offices for an extended time. A Type 2 scan brings representatives from several innovator agencies to one or more central locations to meet with the scan team and host agency staff; compared to a Type 1 scan, scan-team travel time is reduced. A Type 3 scan supplements a desk scan with a symposium or workshop that brings together a larger number of practitioner-innovators and the scan team in a single location where participants discuss their experiences relevant to the scan topic. When NCHRP Project Panel 20-68A selects a topic, they often specify the scan type that may be most appropriate for achieving the program’s objectives. Experience indicates that a scan entails three initial key steps. First, knowledgeable people identify innovations in their field that could be useful in widespread application. Second, practitioners assess the experience of those who developed or were early adopters of these innovations to evaluate the potential benefits, costs, risks, and obstacles likely to be encountered by other practitioners who might adapt the innovations in their own agency and similar settings. Third, the results of the initial steps are documented and used to show and tell others about the most promising new practices.   A fourth step that occurs later is a progressive diffusion of information from scan participants through networks of other practitioners. Presentations at conferences, webinars, and word-of-mouth; circulation of written reports; and articles published in magazines and journals are some of the mechanisms that can spread the knowledge gained by scan participants and accelerate the rate of innovation within and among DOTs. Dissemination activities could in the future include support for scan participants to advise colleagues on adoption of new ideas in new applications. Managing the NCHRP domestic scan program requires insightful selection and sound understanding of the topic areas to be addressed, careful selection and support of the scan participants, thoughtful documentation and communication of each scan team’s findings, and encouragement of scan participants to disseminate what they have learned to others. Managing the program additionally requires that resources be conserved by not duplicating the information exchange activities of others. Scan participants are identified by AASHTO in cooperation with NCHRP’s scan contractor. Each scan team, supported by the scan contractor, produces a report of the scan and other materials to support dissemination of the scan results.  Individual scan-team members are expected to engage in activities to encourage dissemination and adoption of good ideas, also with contractor support, well after the scan report is completed.
A subject-matter expert is engaged by the contractor to prepare a “desk scan” that surveys where innovative practices are being applied and provides a basis for planning the scan-team’s activities. Scan-team chairs and NCHRP advise in selection and appointment of the subject-matter expert. The contractor is responsible for organizing and executing all meetings, travel, and documentation activities associated with each scan and for reporting periodically on the scan program’s status and plans.
The objective of this project is to plan and manage the execution of domestic scans, each addressing a single technical topic and the domestic scan program overall. The purpose of each scan and of the program as a whole is to facilitate information sharing and technology exchange among the states and other transportation agencies, identify actionable items of common interest and encourage adoption of beneficial new technology and practices, and thereby accelerate the rate of innovation within and among DOTs.
Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.
(1).  Establish a management team and other arrangements as needed to administer the Domestic Scan Program. The management team shall be responsible for the following activities:
  • Revision and reformatting of selected scan-topic proposals received from NCHRP for inclusion in the program prospectus, working with NCHRP staff to ensure consistency of scan descriptions and reporting
  • Establishment of scan teams (under Task 2) based on nominations from AASHTO and NCHRP
  • Selection, recruitment, and oversight of subject-matter experts (under Task 2), based on recommendations from scan-team leadership, AASHTO, and NCHRP
  • Planning, execution, and documentation of scans (under Task 2), including securing NCHRP approvals of interim and final products; ensuring scan consistency from one topic to another in terms of  levels of effort, time schedules for scan development, scan budgets, report content and format, scan-team composition, scan dissemination activities, and implementation projects
  • Planning, support, and documentation of pilot implementations (under Task 3) of new ideas identified in scans and adopted by other agencies
  • Maintaining accounts of costs for each scan and pilot implementation, monthly progress reporting, and updating of the program prospectus (See Special Note A.)
  • Participation in a kick-off meeting with the NCHRP project panel and thereafter in the panel’s semi-annual meetings 
(2).  Plan, execute, document, and support dissemination of scans on topics designated by NCHRP, typically progressing through the following steps for each scan:  
  • Review the proposed scan scope.  Prepare and secure NCHRP approval of a scan description to be included in the program prospectus.
  • Assemble the scan team. Working with AASHTO and NCHRP staff, obtain the names of a scan-team chair or co-chairs. Working with the chair or co-chairs and AASHTO staff, recruit the scan-team members, giving consideration to the team’s geographic balance and diversity as well as technical expertise and work experience. Hold team organizational meeting and facilitate team-member communications and scan planning.
  • Working with scan-team members, identify one or more subject-matter experts (SMEs); recruit and obtain NCHRP approval of the SME. The contractor is expected to engage the SME, typically as a consultant.
  • Conduct a desk scan. The SME, in consultation with the scan team and with the contractor’s support, reviews published materials, conducts telephone interviews, and uses other available information to (a) identify leading-edge practices; (b) define sites to be visited or otherwise studied by the scan team; and (c) propose the appropriate scan technical structure, budget, logistics, and other factors likely to influence planning of the scan. The SME documents this information in a desk-scan report.
  • Develop a specific scan plan. Develop a detailed plan based on the desk scan, presenting scan objectives, names of agencies and individuals to be studied, scan dates and logistics schedule, preliminary meeting agendas and background information that will be useful for participants preparing for the scan, topics to be discussed in each meeting, and total scan budget. Ensure that dates for the scan are acceptable to all participants. Obtain NCHRP approval for scan budgets that significantly exceed previous experience or otherwise may significantly affect the domestic scan program. Deliver the plan to scan participants and NCHRP.
  • Conduct and document the scan. Execute the scan plan. Make all logistical arrangements. Scan-team members are expected to provide written notes, photos, or other commentary to the contractor.  The SME, working with the scan team and contractor personnel, prepares a scan report, scan summary, and slide presentation of the scan, presenting scan objectives; topic- and site-selection rationale; site visits; and scan team observations and assessments of the value of technology, procedures, and processes observed.  Obtain NCHRP approval of the scan-team’s completed drafts; make appropriate changes to produce final scan documentation
  • Develop and support execution of a dissemination plan. Working with scan-team members, identify specific activities (such as writing of magazine articles or delivery of presentations at professional meetings) that will spread awareness of the innovations identified by the scan as attractive for adoption by others. Provide support for the accomplishment of these activities and document accomplishments in the program prospectus.
(3).  Plan, support, and document activities to support adoption of scan innovations by other agencies. Working with scan-team members, identify specific opportunities to successfully apply potentially beneficial innovations identified in a scan. Provide support for assessment of such opportunities and development of the application. Prepare a report documenting the application and the lessons learned regarding technology transfer and implementation. 
STATUS: The project is being conducted as a continuation of the U.S. Domestic Scan Program  initiated under preceeding project numbers.  Refer to the NCHRP Project 20-68A web page. (http://apps.trb.org/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=1570

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