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NCHRP 20-75 - Implementing Transportation Knowledge Networks
Leni Oman, Chair, NCHRP 20-75 Panel ,
Amanda J. Wilson, National Transportation Library,
Frances D. Harrison, NCHRP 20-75 Principal Investigator Spy Pond Partners, RITA, WSDOT

Slide 2:  Briefing for Transportation Librarians Roundtable December 2009
Leni Oman, Chair, NCHRP 20-75 Panel
Amanda J. Wilson, National Transportation Library
Frances D. Harrison, NCHRP 20-75 Principal Investigator

Slide 3: Topic
The information problem

  • What is needed?
  • Key Strategies
    • Knowledge Mapping
    • Communities of Practice
    • Findablility
    • Transportation Knowledge Networks
  • What you can do

Slide 4: The Information Problem

  • 80% of an organization’s information content is unmanaged
  • 15-35% of employees’ time spent searching for information
  • Agencies losing brain trust
    • 40-50% of the transportation workforce will be eligible to retire within 10 years.
    • Reduction in Force
  • Work trends
    • More specialization and less cross-training/mentoring
    • “Just in time” information consumption
    • Demographic changes/changing information expectations
  • Explosion of information available especially digital
    • 135% growth in Internet Usage in North American 2000-2008
    • Impossible to keep up even for niche areas
    • Relevance is critical and needs improvement
  • Even so only 16-19% of Internet content is searchable
    • Not all agencies make their information accessible

Slide 5: Current Information Management
Fishing in a Bucket
Ask a colleague
Scan a few familiar resources (e.g. NCHRP Synthesis reports, recent conference proceedings)
Google search
Agencies paying for the same information multiple times
Staff and consultants spending valuable time searching for information and often missing what is of most value New research not benefiting from what is already known
Practitioners reinventing approaches when they could piggyback on existing ones
Responsibility for transportation knowledge capture not shared throughout industry
There is a better way

Slide 6:  What is Needed?

  • Make it easier for transportation agencies to identify, capture and preserve information of value
  • Make it easier for people to find information when they need it from their peers, catalogs, digital and physical collections.
  • Minimize the time it takes to access information that helps us operate more efficiently and effectively
  • Mitigate loss of institutional knowledge resulting from employee departures
    • Reports
    • Manuals Images
    • Lessons Learned
    • Data Sets
    • Web Links
    • Articles
    • Events
    • “Know who”

Slide 7:  Key Strategies

Facilitate person to person knowledge sharing within and across organizations

  • Diagnose current state with Knowledge Mapping Techniques
  • Support knowledge sharing and creation within Communities of Practice - groups of professionals with common interests and goals.

Improve Findability implement tools and techniques for information discovery

Strengthen Knowledge Networks - build and support an information sharing infrastructure across organizations to:

  • Ensure that valuable information is captured, collected and stored so that it can be easily discovered
  • Improve availability of filtered, synthesized and compiled information that can be rapidly absorbed

Slide 8: The Human Knowledge Base

Some knowledge is explicit and can be captured in electronic or paper files.

Some knowledge is tacit, resides within our way of knowing and doing our work. It can be difficult to capture and highly context specific.

This information is most frequently shared through networking, mentoring and discussions with colleagues

Organizational Network Analysis knowledge mapping helps identify priority actions.

Slide 9 Example from Virginia DOT

A knowledge map allows you to identify connections and creates opportunities for questions, like:

  • Are certain people over-subscribed with questions or requests for information?
  • Are there opportunities for individuals to be paired so as to distribute information or responsibilities more evenly?
  • Are some groupsor individuals not connected at all?

Where are people getting their information?
Who are the strong communicators? What can you do to mimic that pattern?

Slide 10:  Communities of Practice and Communities of Interest  


communities of practice (CoPs)

communities of interest (CoIs)

nature of problems

different tasks in the same domain

common task across multiple domains

 knowledge development

refinement of one knowledge system

new ideas coming from within the practice synthesis and mutual learning through the integration of multiple knowledge systems

major objectives

codified knowledge, domain coverage

shared understanding; making all voices heard


group think

lack of shared understanding


shared ontologies

social creativity ; diversity; making all voices heard


beginners and experts apprentices and masters

stakeholders (owners of problems) from different perspectives


 legitimate peripheral participation

informed participation

From Richard Claassens, Information Architect, SNS Bank, the Netherlands

Slide 11:  Finding Transportation Communities

CoIs Example : RITA

CoPs Example : FHWA

CoPs in Research Example : Pavement Interactive

CoPs in TRB Example :
Ning: http://transportationresearch.ning.com/

 Slide 12:  Solution: Improve Findability of High Quality Transportation Information

The quality of being able to locate or navigate.

The degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate.

The degree to which a physical or digital environment supports navigation and search (retrieval).

Peter Morville (2005)--Ambient Findability: What we find changes who we become &/or Information Professionals

Source: flickr.com Source: www.cobbcat.org

Slide 13: Picture
Slide14:  Framing the Findability Problem: Are you finding what you think you’re finding?
The WWW & Invisible Web

World Wide Web consists of “surface web” and “invisible web”

Search engines index the surface web (Google, Yahoo, Clusty.com)
Invisible web is not accessible by web crawlers
550 times larger than surface web** (more) high quality information
excluded by search engine policy
**number varies

 The Invisible Web
Dynamic content: database-driven
Unlinked content: pages not linked to by others
  Private web: sites requiring login or registration
Contextual web: content governed by access controls
Limited access content: sites blocking web crawlers 

Slide 15:  Tips on How to Improve Findability of Your Digital Information

*Information the is Created/Received
Full-text searchable PDF documents (OCR)*

Add metadata
  “Properties” in most Microsoft applications
include Transportation Research Thesaurus terms for topcial description
Use of HTML & tags for web pages

Consistent file & URL naming
  Use of open standards
  example: Sitemaps.xml protocol

Ensure your research is getting to your library *and* TRIS
*often solved when resources are made Accessible and compliant with Section 508 of the ADA
*Information for Access/Use/Reuse

Resources available in open formats

Resources available in multiple formats
PDF, native format (e.g., Word, .PPT), and HTML
.CSV and native format (ARCGIS, SAS) for data

  Digitize and index your resources
High quality digital master images
Metadata covering topic, date, attribution

Publish local standards and guidelines
Codebooks for datasets
Metadata profiles for databases

Slide 16 : What Info Professionals are Doing about Findability
Semantic Web
Applying meaning to web for search engines and other web applications
  Requires knowledge representation (information professionals)
Requires machine-processable, repurposable data (entire community)

  What needs meaning?
Topics Location

Creation of Linked Data
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation Research Thesaurus, other thesauri, taxonomies, and ontologies
Virtual International Authority File TRANSPORTATION: TRIS, COPs, TRB Committees
Source: www.facebook.com

Slide 17:  How Do We Compare?

National Library of Medicine
MeSH 23,000 terms,
  >150K supplementary records, thousands of cross references
  11 staff managing the thesaurus
Index over 4800 professional journals
 User interfaces: PubMed and MedLinePlus National Agricultural Library
NALT >68,500 terms
  7 staff managing the thesaurus
Have indexed over 4 million records
  Custom user interfaces
National Transportation Library
TRT <10,000 terms
Indexing is a part time duty between 4 FTE
700,000 records in TRB’s TRIS Online
Very limited custom user interfaces

Slide 18: Picture

Slide 19 : Transportation Knowledge Networks TRB Special Report 284 Recommendations

  • Proposed a network of Transportation Knowledge Networks with a National Coordinating Structure
  • Need for a strong governing body to provide policy, oversight, and to act as a champion for transportation information and Transportation Knowledge Networks
  • Seek broad-based funding support from multiple sources to sustain operations.
  • Provide federal grants for start up
  • Grow federal funds
  • Develop local match
  • NCHRP project to develop a business plan

Slide 20: Picture

Slide 21: Transportation Knowledge Networks - 2009




Alaska Department of Transportation

Illinois DOT Policy and Research Center

Connecticut DOT

Arizona Transportation Research Center

Iowa DOT



Kansas DOT

Massachusetts State Transportation Library

California Department of Transportation

Michigan DOT

Mississippi DOT

Idaho Transportation Department

Minnesota DOT

New Jersey DOT

Montana Department of Transportation

Missouri DOT

New York State DOT

Oregon DOT

Ohio DOT

North Carolina DOT

Utah State DOT

South Dakota DOT


Washington State DOT

Wisconsin DOT

Tennessee DOT

University of California, Institute of Transportation Studies

University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute

Virginia DOT

Texas A&M University

Northwestern University

Louisiana Transportation Research Center

University of Texas at Austin/Texas Center for Transportation Research

University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studie

Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority

Wisconsin Transportation Center

University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center

Puget Sound Regional Council

Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

Dalaware Valley Regional Planning Commission

Sound Transit

Hanson Professional Services

Transportation Research Board Library


Portland Cement Association

AASHTO Information Center

American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc

FHWA Research Library



Volpe Technical Reference Center



Community Transportation Association of America



GRA, Inc

Slide 22: Transportation Knowledge Networks - 2009

Example Mission (Western TKN)
Connect transportation resources and information from (member) organization to facilitate research an implementation

Example Membership Criteria (Eastern TKN):

  • Be involved in transportation research and/or practice
  • Have library or information services, or a related department with an accessible collection of transportation information resources available to TKN members
  • Have cataloged or systematically organized collections
  • Be willing and able to provide access to local collections and services
  • Designate a representative responsible for communicating with otheree

TKN members. Example TKN Activities:

  • Contribution of topical material to central information portals
  • Posting of member research links to common web page
  • Cataloging of information into a “union” catalog for transportation
  • Digitization of state DOT high-use, high-value materials
  • Networking & capacity building among membership

Slide 23: Example : Climate Change Clearinghouse

Slide 24: NCHRP 20-75 Outreach Findings

What is Needed?

  • One stop shopping for transportation information
  • Improved search tools
  • Value-added services to filter & annotate information
  • Peer-to-peer sharing of best practices
  • Capture of “missing” information resources
  • Greater access to digital documents
  • Cataloging to enable sharing of documents across organizations
  • Preservation of information resources to ensure continuing availability

Slide 25: Comments on the Value of TKNs
“The issue of workforce retention, workforce turnover, and loss of knowledge as a result of that turnover of experienced staff [is] the number one issue of concern to me. To the extent that knowledge networks can be an effective tool in trying to address that issue, it becomes a tool that’s addressing my number one priority”
- Neil Pedersen, Administrator, Maryland SHA
 “Having the capability to access what’s going on, whether it’s in research or whether it’s in best practices, is tremendously important for [innovators] to help create their own approaches in their own organizations. Transportation Knowledge Networks are very important to provide information to be able to learn what others are doing to grapple with these questions.”
 - Bob Johns, Director, Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

Slide 26:  Comments on the Value of TKNs
[The medical sector] invested in the deposits and repositories for information. If you go to the National Library of Medicine, you can see what the human genome looks like and you can find out every chromosome that’s on there, and that information is helpful to the person working on the next cure for cancer as well as the cancer patient.
[The medical sector has] really benefited from this concept of building distributed knowledge networks, and I think when we look at transportation, it’s just ripe for an innovator to come in and talk about how information can radically change the way that we move people, goods, and services around this country.
This vision of building a cooperative information network is different from the Internet itself. In other words, it’s not just enough to take all the digital data that we have and give it a URL and pop it on the Net and say 'good luck.' There is work that needs to go into prioritizing that information and finding that information. Just putting it online and searching Google isn’t good enough.
- R. David Lankes, Associate Professor, Syracuse University, School of Information Studies 

Slide 27: AASHTO Standing Committee on Highways
A survey of SCOH members was conducted in May of 2008. 85% of the respondents thought a TKN would add value for transportation agencies.
Do you think that a transportation knowledge network information portal would add value for transportation agencies?







Don't know




Which arguments for transportation knowledge networks did you find to be compelling?

Response %

Response Count

One stop shopping capability would make searching for transportation information easier and more efficient



Opportunities to reuse/adapt analysis tools and reports developed at peer agencies



All agencies will benefit from a national investment in information sharing



Improved ability to keep up with what peer agencies are doing



The opportunity to deliver clear and concise information about transportation issues to the public



Improved ability to get new staff and consultants up to speed



Providing new services for the next generation "born digital" workforce in transportation



The need and ability to capture institutional knowledge before employees leave or retire.



Current investment in transportation information services is very low relative to other fields



Slide 28 : NCHRP 20-75 Outreach Findings

What Should the Business Plan Contain?

  • Mix of technology, coordination/collaboration, and programs
  • Mix of centralized and decentralized elements
  • Clear roles for national coordinator and regional TKNs
  • Focus on “hot topics” and innovation to demonstrate value
  • Emphasis on how TKNs can increase efficiencies
  • Clear accountability 

If a national transportation information portal were created, what types of content would be useful for the scope of responsibilities you manage?

Response %

Response Count

Key transportation facts (gas tax by state, which states are using variable pricing...)



State of the practice/Lessons Learned resources



Current Policies and Procedures



Research reports



Industry Standards and Guidelines



Directory of transportation professionals across the nation



Data sources



Event data (national and regional meetings and conferences)






There should be a blog for recent retirees. One of their issues to adjust is that they have a career of knowledge to share but unless they consult they have no voice or venue to mentor and advise.

Slide 29 NCHRP 20-75 Business Plan

Context Section
Mission, Goals and Objectives
Products and Services
Stewardship Model
Estimated Costs $13.5 million per year
$7.9 mill for content $3.1 mill technical/administrative infrastructure
$1.5 mill outreach/education
$1 mill research/literature review services
Roughly 50% of funds to be distributed as grants to TKN member organizations for content development and services

Slide 30 : Future Vision: Information Sharing Infrastructure

  • Technical & Administrative Infrastructure ($3.1 million annually)
  • National Transportation Portal with Federated Search
  • National Information Repositories Digital - documents & data
  • Print archive copies for preservation
  • Standards Coordination + Thesaurus (improve findability through consistent tagging and semantic links)
  • Content ($7.9 million annually)
  • Information Modules (e.g. event calendars, directories, topical pages) feed into national portal, available for other web sites/portals
  • Targeted Collection & Digitization Efforts
  • Group Subscriptions to Commercial Content
  • Outreach, Coordination and Communication ($1.5 million annually)
  • End-Users
  • Libraries
  • Non-Library Information Providers
  • Research/ Literature Review Services ($1 million annually)
  • Coordination for maximum coverage and availability

Slide 31: Picture

Slide 32:  Information Need Scenario
A winter storm brings traffic to a standstill on a 20 mile section of an Interstate Highway. Motorists are stranded for hours. Following this incident, the state DOT Secretary requests a review of how to avoid this situation in the future.

Slide 33: Picture

Slide 34: Vision: TKNs Make it Happen
Find & Access Information
The National TKN Coordinating Body subscribes to information services such as Elselvier, ScienceDirect, Lexis-Nexis, ProQuest, and Dow Jones Factiva and makes these available to all TKN members.
According to the TKN collection development policy, TKN members submit their organizations’ research reports, manuals, consultant studies, and other publications to an identified information repository.
TKN members tag the resources so that they can be found The National TKN Coordinating Body provides the technical infrastructure to maintain access to these resources.

The National TKN Coordinating Body sets the structure, each TKN adds and updates own directory.

Submit Resources
Individuals may submit resources, which are then indexed and made accessible by the National TKN Coordinating Body or TKN member library.

Ask a Question
  TKN Members handle information requests

Communities of Practice
  TKN topic leaders maintain the list of communities of practice.

Slide 35: Picture

Slide 36:  Directory of Libraries and Transportation Information Centers
Develop an electronic, web-based directory of U.S. transportation librarians, libraries and information centers that could participate in any of a number of ways in TKNs and take responsibility for collecting and providing access to the reports, research, and technical information of their own organizations. This directory should support queries and reporting.
  Schedule: February 2009 - December 2009
Participants: Collaborative effort of NTL, NCHRP 20-75A Team, SLA-TD, Regional TKNs and Pooled Fund Study Members

Target Contents

  • Transportation Libraries
  • General Purpose Libraries with Significant Transportation Collections
  • State DOT, MPO, and larger (top 50) Transit Agency data and publications offices (where formal libraries do not exist)
  • USDOT Modal Administrations
  • LTAP Centers Associations (updates for those in current NTL directory)
  • Private Firms
  • Local Transportation/Public Works Agencies
  • Major international transportation information sources

Slide 37 : What You Can Do
Meet with members of your agency management team and staff to answer the following questions
What kinds of information resources would members of my organization most like to have easy access to? What additional help do we need to get our hands on timely and relevant information?
What information resources do we have that others would be interested in consultant studies, policies & procedures, manuals, training materials, data sets, etc?
What would it take to make these available to other organizations? What help would we need to do this?

Join/support your regional TKN: www.etkn.org, www.wtkn.org, www.mtkn.org
Identify areas of common interest and mutual benefit
Join/designate a contact person from your organization
Participate in an information sharing initiative

Put your information sources on the map
Support cataloging of resources into OCLC
Adopt standard file naming and formatting conventions to facilitate discovery of your documents
Update your library’s listing in the national directory of transportation libraries and information centers
If your organization has a data office, or publications office that is willing to make reports, data sets, maps, or other information resources available to the broader transportation community, add them to the national directory as well
  Participate in community collaborative activities such as the Library Connectivity Pooled Fund Study, TRB LIST, SLA Transportation Division, TRB Data Section

Help shape future TKN efforts
Communicate your ideas to the AASHTO RAC TKN Task Force and the TRB LIST Committee

Build awareness of the TKN Business Plan
Connect with your agency AASHTO and CUTC representatives to share your perspective