Studies and Special Programs Division
TRB's Studies and Special Programs Division is led by Stephen Godwin.
The Studies and Special Programs Division conducts policy studies at the request of the U.S. Congress, executive branch agencies, states, and other sponsors; operates a bibliographic database of transportation research and provides library reference services; produces syntheses of current practices in highway, transit, airport operations, and commercial truck and bus safety; and manages Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) programs in highway, transit, and rail and truck safety.
With the guidance of committees drawn from the nation’s leading experts, the Policy Studies group produces reports examining complex and controversial transportation issues. Studies cover all modes of transportation and a variety of safety, economic, environmental, and research policy issues. The U.S. Congress and the executive branch have adopted many recommendations from TRB policy reports, attesting to the substantive value of the findings. The Subcommittee on Planning and Policy Review provides oversight for TRB’s policy work. Since 1998, all completed policy study reports are posted on the TRB website. Informing Transportation Policy Choices, a document that provides an overview of all TRB policy studies from 1983 through 2003, is also posted on the Policy Studies page of the website.
Transportation Research Information Services
In January 2011, TRB and ITRD released TRID, the TRIS and ITRD Database. TRID is the world's largest and most comprehensive bibliographic resource on transportation research information. It is produced and maintained by the Transportation Research Board of the US National Academies with sponsorship by State Departments of Transportation, the various administrations at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other sponsors of TRB's core technical activities. ITRD is produced by ITRD member organizations under the under the sponsorship of Joint Transport Research Centre (collectively JTRC) of the International Transport Forum and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and ITRD.
The TRB Publications Index is a searchable database available on TRB's website that contains all TRB, Highway Research Board (HRB), Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP), and Marine Board publications since 1923. The TRB Publications Index offers simple and advanced searching and allows users to view results, download the results in a variety of formats, and e-mail the results. The index provides direct web links to available full-text documents and to ordering information.
Research Needs Statements Database
The Research Needs Statements (RNS) Database is a dynamic collection of research needs statements reviewed and approved by the standing committees in TRB's Technical Activities Division. As such, the database reflects priority research needs at any given time. The collection of research needs statements are augmented and kept up to date by the TRB standing committees as part of their regular portfolio of activities.
Research in Progress Database
RiP is a searchable database of records of active or recently completed research projects from State Departments of Transportation, the modal administrations at the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Transportation Research Board, and university transportation centers. The RiP contains interational project records from OECD's International Transport Research Documentation's Transport Research in Progress (TRIP) Database.
Individuals from state DOTs and university transportation centers can add, modify, or delete records of research through a web-based data-entry system. A current awareness service notifies users automatically about new project records in specified subject areas.
The TRB Library is a small, specialized library that provides reference and information services to TRB sponsors, committee members, and staff. The library subscribes to more than 400 serial titles and contains a complete collection of TRB, HRB, SHRP, and Marine Board publications. The TRB Library also has access to a large number of electronic resources through the National Academies Library.
SYNTHESIS OF INFORMATION REPORTS
Cooperative Research Programs Syntheses
Under the sponsorship of the Cooperative Research Programs administered by TRB, the Synthesis unit prepares reports on current practice and knowledge for a range of key highway, transit, and airport topics. Practitioners and researchers make extensive use of the reports.
A highway committee, a transit committee, and an airport committee of the Cooperative Research Programs select the study topics each year. A consultant experienced in the topic area researches and writes each Synthesis report, with guidance from an expert panel.
Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program
The Commercial Truck and Bus Safety Synthesis Program (CTBSSP) is a cooperative research program sponsored by FMCSA and administered by TRB. The program was authorized in 2001 to support FMCSA’s safety research programs. In 2007, FMCSA reauthorized the program through a cooperative agreement providing $200,000 annually through 2012. This funding supports two new studies each year.
The studies summarize current practice in a specific technical area in commercial truck and bus safety, usually through a literature search and a survey of organizations such as state DOTs, enforcement agencies, commercial truck and bus companies, or other appropriate groups. The program is modeled on the synthesis programs of NCHRP and TCRP. The primary users of the Synthesis final reports are practitioners who are facing the issues or problems addressed, in a variety of settings.
A program oversight panel monitors CTBSSP and the program procedures; selects Synthesis topics annually, after periodic, industrywide solicitations; refines Synthesis scopes; selects researchers to prepare each Synthesis; reviews products; and makes publication recommendations. An expert panel is appointed for each topic to provide detailed oversight of researcher's work.
INNOVATIONS DESERVING EXPLORATORY ANALYSIS PROGRAMS
Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) programs fund early-stage investigations of potential breakthroughs in transportation technology. Through small projects, researchers investigate the feasibility of innovative concepts that could advance transportation practice. IDEA programs sponsor high-risk research that is independent of the immediate mission concerns of public agencies and of the short-term financial imperatives of the private sector.
The state DOTs collectively fund highway-related research through the NCHRP IDEA program. Research on innovations applicable to transit practice is carried out under the Transit IDEA program, funded by FTA through TCRP. FRA with FMCSA, cosponsors the Safety IDEA program, which funds projects to improve the safety of truck, intercity bus, and rail operations.
Each IDEA program follows a similar administrative model, adapted for sponsorship arrangements and target audiences. Each program operates through a committee or panel of volunteer transportation experts who solicit, review, and select proposals that merit research contracts. Because IDEA projects are high-risk investigations of unproven concepts, funds awarded for any one project are usually less than $100,000. Frequently, however, IDEA funds are augmented through cost-share arrangements, nearly doubling the amount of research that can be supported through the IDEA programs.
An annual summary of completed and current projects is published for each of the IDEA programs and distributed at the TRB Annual Meeting. These summaries also are available on the IDEA page of the TRB website, along with the IDEA Program Announcement, which contains forms and guidelines for submitting proposals. A less formal publication, Ignition, features interviews with IDEA investigators and transportation leaders, plus articles that highlight promising projects. Issues of Ignition are archived on the IDEA website.