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Knowledge Strategies to support the Research Lifecycle and Application of Research Results


The transportation practice is constantly evolving. Research is conducted to help understand and apply new concepts or modifications to existing practices. But adoption and implementation of research results and innovation can seem slow, and the potential benefits may not be fully realized. It can be difficult to trace a transportation research concept from idea to use; some challenges include:

• problem statement authors may not know if the project is funded

• titles change making it harder for people to follow the progress of a project

• for one or two years, there is little communication about the projects underway

• champions may change jobs or retire and awareness of the project fades

• there are limited venues for marketing products

• there are multiple repositories of information about research but no single portal

• the volume of information available is daunting to digest

As a result, problem statements are pitched for topics that have recently been funded, studied, or have projects underway and research results may be untapped.

The transportation research community has invested a significant amount of effort to support implementation of research results. The efforts have included practices to incorporate implementation expectations in problem statements, contracts, and reports; studies on how to communicate research results and practices to document the value of research; and surveys to capture the use of research products. But adoption of research findings is still slow, and some are concerned that the value of research isn’t commensurate with the investment in research. This impacts the transportation sector as a whole.

The slow adoption of applied research findings in the implementation phase is not unique to the transportation sector. The National Institute of Health has established the National Center for Advancing Translation Science to advance what is called knowledge translation as a practice that “transforms the translational process so that new treatments and cures for disease can be delivered to patients faster”. The National Institute for Health describes knowledge translation science as “focused on streamlining the process of moving (“translating”) … findings into … practice”. Developed out of necessity due to a human health science environment closely intertwined with rigorous FDA oversight and approval processes, the practice of knowledge translation maps the lifecycle from research idea to implementation and evaluation of the products, through adoption in real world communities.

An example of the knowledge translation lifecycle is provided in Figure 1. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) identified six opportunities within the research cycle at which the interactions, communications, and partnerships that help facilitate knowledge transfer might occur. The six opportunities are listed below. This is only one example of a knowledge translation cycle model. The product of this research request should be built to reflect typical context and patterns found in the transportation sector.

KT1: Defining research questions and methodologies

KT2: Conducting research (as in the case of participatory research)

KT3: Publishing research findings in plain language and accessible formats

KT4: Placing research findings in the context of other knowledge and sociocultural norms

KT5: Making decisions and taking action informed by research findings

KT6: Influencing subsequent rounds of research based on the impacts of knowledge use

Figure 1. The CIHR 2005 Model and six opportunities for Knowledge Translation (KT)

Knowledge translation emphasizes the engagement with stakeholders that are closely involved in the target implementation community in order to achieve effective adoption of research. Knowledge translation also expands the traditional research lifecycle to include feedback to researchers at each stage of the process, and particularly from community adoption. This continual feedback helps researchers and developers improve projects, services, explanations, and adaptions for current and future work. An effective knowledge translation cycle helps foster nimble organizations that can respond more quickly to disruptions in practice, use of emerging technology and practice, and changing policy.

This research will examine the concepts of the knowledge translation lifecycle, compare it to the transportation and transportation research life cycles, consider how current practices in transportation align with knowledge translation practices and identify common gaps and opportunities that could streamline and enhance the adoption of research and emergent practice in the field. The research will focus on theoretical and applied transportation research that is generated in any stage or function of the transportation life cycle (e.g., policy setting, planning, programming, design, budget development, etc.) and how we can use that to increase the speed of research adoption.


The objective of this research is to:

• Provide a guide that includes:

• The definition of knowledge translation, identification of sectors that are currently leveraging knowledge translation methods, and a summary of the current uses of knowledge translation and variations in application.

• Explanation of the knowledge translation practices, including participants, activities, and resources needed at each stage of the knowledge translation life cycle.

• A review of current state DOT practices to integrate research and new practice. This includes identifying methods used (e.g., waterfall, agile, win-win spiral, or other project management approaches) and stakeholder engagement patterns by technical discipline (e.g., roadway safety, materials research, planning research, traffic research…).

• A comparison of current methods with the knowledge translation lifecycle to identify leverage points and improvement opportunities.

• Actions to strengthen knowledge translation practices within the transportation life cycle and technical disciplines.

• Major tasks likely included are:

• Literature review of knowledge translation that includes peer-reviewed and gray literature from within and outside the transportation practice and a review of transportation research and innovation implementation and adoption practices.

• Interviews and/or surveys of state DOTs about research and innovation implementation and adoption practices. This may include state DOT research managers, change management practitioners, and subject matter experts that help communicate and implement research practice.

• Review of current feedback pipelines in the transportation life cycle, and an exploration of researcher acceptance and adoption of feedback.

• Inventory of types of outcomes and outputs that might be generated throughout the KT life cycle to raise awareness and demonstrate value.

• Interim reports that summarize the findings from literature, surveys, interviews, analysis of state DOT practice with knowledge translation practices, and draft guidance.

• Development of a tutorial on knowledge translation life cycle and its stages for the transportation research community.

• A final guide, knowledge translation lifecycle map, tutorial, and outreach materials.


State DOTs are in a period of significant transformation increasing the need to be nimble. But integration of research and innovation can be very slow. Research investments and new practices are scrutinized for the status of implementation and return on investment, and the delay in integration causes concern. This project is urgently needed to help state DOTs understand the activities required to speed delivery of research findings and new practices. This project will increase the value and adoption of transportation research and innovation to stakeholders.

Related Research:

Our review identified a substantial body of work on this topic. WorldCat (the world’s most extensive library catalog) lists close to 18,000 items on knowledge translation. Scholarly databases include a number of documents on knowledge translation: EBSCO Host has 3,073 results. Web of Science has 6,360 results. ProQuest had 16,448 results. This practice has been used extensively in health care and education to improve the application of research and innovation and improve outcomes. A review of transportation literature identifies about 200 documents, some addressing the health care transportation interface. These provide a good resource for a literature review to begin this research project. There are also relevant materials in the transportation sector that address elements of knowledge translation that will help examine the gaps in the transportation sector’s current knowledge translation capabilities.


Primary recipients of the results are the AASHTO Committee on Knowledge Management, AASHTO Research Advisory Committee, TRB Standing Committee on Information and Knowledge Management, and TRB Standing Committee on Research, Innovation, and Implementation Management. It is anticipated that the research results will identify current strengths and weaknesses in the research/knowledge translation lifecycle and potential improvements.

This research will also be useful to other AASHTO and TRB Committees actively using research in this practice such as roadway safety, pavements, bridges and structures, and operations. To facilitate awareness and use of these research results, outreach efforts should include the research coordinators for AASHTO committees and the TRB Committee Research Coordinators and Committee Communication Coordinators.

Outreach materials for this project should include:

• A handout about the project and project objectives at the beginning of the project to help raise awareness.

• As much as practicable, engagement, such as a community of practice, with the primary recipients and other interested people throughout the project to maintain awareness and provide input to the researchers.

• Final products including the research report, webinars, and a short actionable strategy that guides users through steps to support knowledge translation.


This project, if funded, provides the opportunity to examine the research lifecycle from idea to implementation, identify weaknesses and opportunities for intervention, and improve adoption. It will increase the feedback loop among the stakeholders within the research development lifecycle and the speed of research implementation. And adoption. Knowledge Translation (KT) in the public health sector accelerates the benefits of research and innovation in the health system and, ultimately, people´s health—end-users don’t have to wait for 10 years before they benefit from the research. In the same vein, KT will accelerate the transportation research process, removing process bottlenecks and information silos, providing a robust feedback mechanism among initiators, developers, researchers, and end-users. KT will provide similar enhancement that Agile (adaptive) project management provided to waterfall (predictive) methodology. It is like the communication and shared ownership of security as seen in Information Technology (IT)’s DEV/SEC/OPS (development, security, and operations) methods where the approach to culture, automation, and platform design integrate security as a shared responsibility throughout the entire IT lifecycle—a mantra to make everyone accountable for security. Yes, KT will increase shared accountability, increase communication and feedback, benefits, implementation, and adoption, reduce redundancies, as end-users and other stakeholders are on the same page.

Imagin a research problem statement that was initiated in 2022. By the time the research is completed and implemented, 3+ years have passed. The purpose of an RNS may have become obsolete, similar research initiated, or simply, the passion behind the idea has depleted. People tend to think of project life cycles as having a hard start and stop dates. In contrast, the assumption for Knowledge Translation is that this is an ongoing project that may have many paths, diversions, and play out over long and unpredictable periods of time. Knowledge translation emphasizes the engagement with stakeholders closely involved in the target implementation community to achieve effective adoption of research. This continual feedback helps researchers and end-users improve projects, services, explanations, and adaptions for current and future work.

Sponsoring Committee:AJE45, Information and Knowledge Management
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Leni Oman, Washington State DOT, 360-705-7974 Dr. Denise Bedford, Georgetown University, 301-787-5257, db233@georgetown.edu Matt Miller, Texas Transportation Institute, 512-407-1157, mmiller@tamu.edu
Date Posted:03/18/2022
Date Modified:03/25/2022
Index Terms:Knowledge management, Research management, Technology transfer, Implementation, Research,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Administration and Management
Data and Information Technology
Transportation (General)

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