As research becomes more widespread and the amount of published information increases, the need for a coordinated, comprehensive, user-friendly system to access this resource grows. The Transportation Research Information Service (TRIS), created in 1968, is an accessible database that includes domestic and international bibliographic references and data on federal and state-funded research-in-progress. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Value Added Network (AASHTO VAN) provides on-line connections among states. An AASHTO VAN connection to TRIS will be installed by late 1995. TRIS access through the AASHTO VAN will replace the AASHTO RAC research-in-progress index. To ensure that the TRIS connection is effective, it is critical that it be based on the needs of users. Further, since computer technology is making it more feasible to simplify complex systems for the end users, it is an appropriate time to assess the effectiveness of systems to maximize the sharing of information, encourage participation by individual states, keep subscriber costs to a minimum, offer acceptable user response time, and ensure that TRIS information is easy to enter and access.
The overall objectives of this research were to improve user access to TRIS through the AASHTO VAN. The objective of the first phase of this research was to assess user needs, develop functional requirements for the design of the access software, and identify the types of support that should be provided to support users.
Users of TRIS are defined to range from the persons directly responsible for research information entry and retrieval through those who use the information in decision making. To accomplish this objective, the following tasks were undertaken: (1) Identify existing and potential users and their needs through a structured survey of the various user groups. The survey should determine (a) how data is currently entered and accessed, (b) which personnel do the data entry, (c) the support they will require once they are connected to the system, (d) the availability of support from the state level or other sources, (e) the perceived training needs, (f) logistical problems, and (g) how TRIS and its data can be made more useful? Summarize the needs determined through the survey and assess the compatibility of current and developing systems to meet user needs. (2) Formulate functional requirements for the user interface with TRIS through the AASHTO VAN. These functional requirements should be based upon user needs and should assume at least some other support items will be implemented. These functional requirements should describe potential usage patterns, suggestions for screen displays, ordering of menu options, degree of on-line user assistance, and user skill level constraints. (3) Identify other modifications or support items that should be considered to facilitate the access to TRIS through the AASHTO VAN. The intent is to describe them in sufficient detail to determine the resources that will be necessary to develop them, assess their feasibility in different types of agencies, and identify potential barriers to implementation. (4) Prepare a draft report which documents the findings of the user needs assessment, describes the functional requirements for the user interface, and recommends the types of user support that may be useful.
: The consultant's report was approved by the panel, and it was circulated to SCOR and RAC. This project has been completed but the panel received additional funds to manage another project, entitled NCHRP Project 20-39(02): Improved Transportation Research in Progress-Data System. The link for this project can be found here: http://184.108.40.206/cmsfeed/TRBNetProjectDisplay.asp?ProjectID=582