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U.S.: How do agencies manage transportation research programs?

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New report provides state transportation agencies a framework to organize publicly-funded research programs for maximum impact.

The challenge

Good data and good research are key to enhancing transportation systems over time. But are state Departments of Transportations (DOTs) following standards and best practices in managing their transportation research programs?

“Surprisingly, there’s no comprehensive scientific body of literature on how to best manage such research programs,” says Camille Wu, transportation systems expert at CPCS.

What’s missing is a framework that brings disparate knowledge together to help DOTs guess less and make research decisions efficiently.

CPCS filled that gap.

What we did  

CPCS proceeded in three steps:

  • Reviewed state DOT research programs from the last 15 years
  • Administered an online survey and collected responses from multiple agency representatives
  • Conducted in-depth case studies of five state transportation agencies

For each case, CPCS analyzed four dimensions:

  • Capability: the DOT’s ability to undertake research
  • Management: the DOT’s research processes and protocols 
  • Quality: the DOT’s rigour and quality control on research efforts
  • Value: the practical usefulness and long-term value of the DOT’s research

Impact 

The final report was published by the National Academy of Sciences.

“The cases we selected reflect a diverse and unique organizational arrangement,” says Camille. “Our general framework allows all DOTs to benefit from our findings, regardless of their size, needs and resources.”