Report Examines How Breakthroughs Emerge from Long-Term, High-Risk Research
A report titled Back-Casting Breakthrough Research in the Transportation Sector presents a historical analysis of breakthrough research in highway transportation on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Exploratory Advanced Research (EAR) Program. The report provides a better understanding of how transportation-related breakthroughs emerge from long-term, high-risk research so that the EAR Program and other research and development programs can hone their assessments of potential impacts from the selection of topics to the transitioning of Program results through applied research. The results from this exercise could assist in setting realistic expectations about the time and paths from scientific and technology breakthroughs to implementation.
The report draws four conclusions. First, research breakthroughs require an environment of sustained public-sector support for research. Second, breakthrough research outcomes offer solutions to vexing transportation problems and clear benefits for end users. Third, research breakthroughs build on and combine related technological developments across multiple disciplines or by combined expertise across fields. Fourth, breakthroughs require iterative experimental studies and pilot deployments to help ensure widespread acceptance. For more information, read the full report here.
EAR Program Marks 10 Years of Research Results
FHWA's EAR Program published the EAR Program Research Results catalog, which was updated to include summary descriptions of research results through 2018. The catalog's publication marks the 10th anniversary of the EAR Program providing research results. The EAR Program addresses longer term, higher risk breakthrough research with the potential for improving the planning, building, renewing, and operating of safe, congestion-free, and environmentally sound transportation facilities.
Technology Readiness Level Guidebook Released
A publication by the EAR Program helps those working in transportation research conduct an evaluation to determine the maturity of a technology and identify the next steps in the research process. The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Guidebook explains what a TRL is and how to prepare for, conduct, and use the results of TRL assessments. [more]
Read the full text of the TRL Guidebook.
NRC Postdoctoral Fellows Help EAR Program Solve Transportation Issues
The Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) conducts research across a wide range of topics and disciplines. To supplement the expertise of the permanent staff, it is important to bring in researchers with the appropriate backgrounds to investigate specific problems at short-term basis. Through the EAR Program, FHWA utilizes the Resident Associateship (or Postdoctoral Fellows) Program of the National Research Council (NRC) for this purpose. The NRC provides a process for selecting candidates on a competitive merit basis and subsequently for administration of the Resident Fellows during their tenures at FHWA.
Is It Possible for a Bridge to "Feel" Changes in Loading Caused by Traffic or the Environment and Respond by Redistributing Loads Throughout the Structure?
Answering this intriguing question is the goal of research supported by the EAR Program. The project, "Self-Sensing Adaptive Material for a New Generation of Multifunctional Bridge-Bearing Systems," is part of a 3-year EAR Program-funded inquiry into developing responsive smart materials for bridge components. The University of Nevada, Reno, is conducting the research under the EAR Program. Click here for more information.