TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 522: Managing State Transportation Research Programs identifies the current state of practice of managing state transportation research programs. The report highlights existing resources, desired individual skill sets, core competencies, and structures that are in place for departments of transportation (DOTs) to manage and conduct transportation research, especially federally funded research.
In essence, NCHRP Synthesis 522 addresses how transportation agencies organize and manage their research programs to strive for quality and positive impacts on the transportation system over time (value). The report includes a four-dimensional framework to analyze and shed light on how state DOT research programs with differences in agency needs, resources, and constraints are able to produce programs of high quality and value.
State transportation agencies conduct applied research with a goal of ultimately creating new knowledge to enhance the transportation system. Agency research as an activity requires special skills and capabilities—it convenes practitioners, scholars, and policy makers to identify and pursue the knowledge that is most needed.
These and other attributes of research make it unlike other DOT functions such as planning, programming, construction, maintenance, and operations, even though it eventually enables agencies to perform those functions. The payoffs and innovative outcomes of research can be significant and valuable, although they are rarely immediate.