NCHRP Project 20-68A U. S. Domestic Scan Program is intended to facilitate technology transfer and innovation among state departments of transportation (DOTs) and others through personal contact. A “scan” approach typically entails field visits to observe promising new practices, identify pertinent development and application issues, and assess appropriate technology transfer opportunities and methods. The scan visit focuses on face-to-face discussion of current experience, providing opportunities for a uniquely rich exchange of information that is difficult or impossible to replicate through written materials, telephone conversations, and e-mail correspondence. The scan visits themselves are a productive means for spreading information and innovation, but scan projects typically include efforts to encourage scan-team members to expand the circle of information exchange through preparation and dissemination of a report of each scan, publications in trade and professional journals, and participation in conferences and other peer-to-peer forums. Efforts must be made to assess the effectiveness of scans and post-scan dissemination activities as means for disseminating new concepts and practices and encouraging innovation.
Research has shown that assessing the effectiveness of information flows within interpersonal and inter-organizational networks can yield valuable insights for understanding and accelerating technological innovation. This research has been conducted predominantly in the private sector. The objectives of the current project are to explore applications of the tools of social network analysis to the NCHRP’s Domestic Scan Program and to DOTs more generally, to demonstrate measures of scan effectiveness, and to investigate the factors that contribute to the effectiveness of individuals acting as agents of technology transfer and innovation.
This initial exploratory work entailed tracing the transmission of ideas from early-adopter scan-tem host agencies through scan-team members to recipient agencies and then onward through various channels to other users. The underlying hypothesis tested was that the scan mechanism facilitates and accelerates the diffusion of innovation, producing substantial benefits for recipient agencies. A detailed survey of maintenance personnel was conducted to assess the ways information about new technologies were disseminated. The researchers' report of the project is available by clicking here.