The exchange of information between state departments of transportation (DOTs) is mutually beneficial to their respective programs, but has traditionally occurred mainly through indirect linkages such as professional committee meetings, conferences, and other ad hoc encounters of individuals. In such encounters, the dissemination of information and exchange of technology is limited to those present. Furthermore, at conferences, the topics presented are predetermined by conference organizers; presentations often do not accommodate interactive discussions; and site visits are usually confined by constraints of regional locality, resources, or funding.
Another approach for information sharing and technology transfer that has proven its effectiveness is the technology scan. A team of experienced agency staff members visit counterparts in other agencies to learn about these agencies' experience with new procedures and practices. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) have for several years conducted such scans at the international level. (NCHRP Project 20-36 Highway Research and Technology -- International Information Sharing provides support for AASHTO's participation.) The success of these international scans and similar activities motivated proposals that a series of domestic scans would be useful to accelerate the diffucion of innovation among DOTs.
An initial project was undertaken to develop a business plan for a domestic scan program that would facilitate information sharing and technology exchanges among the DOTs. The program was to be modeled after NCHRP Project 20-36, making use of techniques and procedures that have evolved and been successful while modifying and adapting them specifically for application to the domestic scene. A domestic scan was assumed for the most part to take advantage of on-site visits to different locations. However, it was recognized that on-site visits may not be the only method applicable for information sharing and technology exchanges. Depending on subject matter and degree of practice, other methods such as gatherings of various types or teleconferences may be more appropriate. The business plan proposed models for a domestic scan program, including methods and responsibilities for identifying and selecting subject matter, locations, members of the scan team; and appropriate consultant support; duration and number of visits for each scan; scan-team organization; and report preparation, publication, and dissemination. That business plan, available as a PDF file here served as a basis for undertaking a pilot program under NCHRP Project 20-68(01), described separately.
The pilot program included two scans. These initial scans served as a proof of concept and opportunity for adjusting the domestic scan model proposed in the business plan. Following the success of these pilot scans, NCHRP Project 20-68A U. S. Domestic Scan Program was initiated. This project is descriibed separately.
A series of activities have subsequently been undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of the Domestic Scan Program and to explore further alternative methods of conducting scans. These activities are conducted under the NCHRP 20-68B and 20-68C project series. These projects are described separately.