National Cooperative Highway Research Program
A forum for coordinated and collaborative research, the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) addresses issues integral to the state Departments of Transportation (DOTs) and transportation professionals at all levels of government and the private sector. The NCHRP provides practical, ready-to-implement solutions to pressing problems facing the industry.
The NCHRP is administered by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and sponsored by the member departments (i.e., individual state departments of transportation) of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Individual projects are conducted by contractors with oversight provided by volunteer panels of expert stakeholders.
Christopher Hedges, Director - Cooperative Research Programs
NCHRP Program Description
The state departments of transportation are the sole sponsors of the NCHRP. Support is voluntary and funds are drawn from the states' Federal-Aid Highway apportionment of State Planning and Research (SPR) funds. Furthermore, the funds can be spent only for the administration of problems approved by at least two-thirds of the states. Each state's allocation amounts to 5 and 1/2 percent of its SPR apportionment.
Each year in early July, the AASHTO Standing Committee on Research (SCOR) solicits problems from three authorized sources: (1) AASHTO member transportation departments, (2) the chairs of AASHTO's committees and subcommittees, and (3) the Federal Highway Administrator. Problem statements are due by October 15 of the same year; on receipt, FHWA and NCHRP evaluations are performed. These evaluations are sent to submitters around mid November, and submitters have until early December to comment on the evaluations or to withdraw the problem statement. The NCHRP also uses evaluation panels to assess problem statements in some of the more popular subject areas, such as bridges, materials, and traffic and safety. In these cases, the collective thoughts of the panel are conveyed back to the submitter, instead of FHWA and NCHRP evaluations.
Submitters are strongly encouraged to do a literature search, before submitting, to make sure the problem hasn't already been solved or isn't being studied. TRID, a newly integrated database that combines the records from TRB's Transportation Research Information Services (TRIS) Database and the OECD's Joint Transport Research Centre’s International Transport Research Documentation (ITRD) Database, is now available at http://trid.trb.org and Research in Progress can be found at http://rip.trb.org/search/.
At the same time that new problem candidates are submitted, NCHRP panels and staff are also working on recommendations for continuations of projects begun in earlier years. Late each December, a report on the continuation projects and new problem candidates goes to the SCOR and the AASHTO Research Advisory Committee (RAC) with a ballot for rating the candidates according to priority.
The ratings are returned to the SCOR Secretary (i.e., the Director of TRB’s Cooperative Research Programs) and are translated into priority rankings based on the average ratings of SCOR and RAC. A summary report is sent to the SCOR for review prior to its meeting in Washington, D.C., to determine final priorities and formulate a program. This meeting is held annually in late March. Based on the funding expected from the Federal-Aid Highway apportionments for the given fiscal year, SCOR determines which completed or ongoing projects should receive additional funding for further work and which new problem submittals should be programmed. An Announcement of Research Projects is prepared each year in April. This Announcement details the preliminary scopes of work that will be considered in requests for proposals.
Once the program is developed, SCOR sends a report to the AASHTO Board of Directors requesting approval of the program. The final program for each year consists of those continuations and new problems that receive a favorable vote by two-thirds or more of the Member Departments. After AASHTO approves the program, it is referred to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for administration. After acceptance by the Academies (authority delegated to TRB's Executive Committee Subcommittee for the NCHRP) for administration by the Transportation Research Board, the problems are assigned to panels of experts who provide guidance on the technical aspects of the research and translate the AASHTO problems into NCHRP research project statements with well-defined objectives. On the basis of these statements, TRB solicits research proposals from private and public research organizations that can demonstrate capability and experience in the problem area to be researched. These organizations include universities, nonprofit institutions, consulting and commercial firms, and individual consultants. Guidance for the preparation of proposals is included in the NCHRP brochure, Information and Instructions for Preparing Proposals.
The technical panels review the proposals, recommend contract awards, monitor research in progress, provide technical guidance, and review reports for acceptability and for accomplishment of the agency's research plan. They also provide counsel to TRB staff in matters of overall project administration. Selected agencies perform research under contract to the Academies, guided by the Procedural Manual for Contractors Conducting Research in the Transportation Research Board's Cooperative Research Programs. Guidance for the preparation of final reports for submission to the NCHRP can be found in Chapter 5 of the Procedural Manual.
Research findings are published in the NCHRP Reports series and the NCHRP Synthesis of Highway Practice series. The reporting format is designed specifically to accommodate the transportation administrator and practicing engineer. In addition, to provide the earliest possible awareness and use of the research findings, NCHRP Research Results Digests and NCHRP Legal Research Digests are issued as warranted. All of these reports are available at the TRB Bookstore. Copies of all published reports are issued to the chief administrative officer of each highway and transportation department and widely within TRB circles.
Full details on the program's work since inception in 1962 can be found in NCHRP Summary of Progress Through 1988 and this web site.