State Research Process and Submission
The Research Office holds a complete Call for Projects (including both idea and proposal submission) on a biennial basis. This page serves to inform the public, researchers, and State DOTs of the process and the general documentation involved. For further questions please contact TDOT.Research@tn.gov or go to the Additional Resources page to search other available documentation on different portions of the research cycle.
- A Call for Research Needs Statements (RNS) is held on a biennial basis. Research strategic priorities, and, if appropriate, overarching themes, are identified for the call by the Research Oversight Task Force. The best ideas will address TDOT’s goals and lead to cost savings or critical innovations. The solicitation for research ideas is posted on our WebGrants application system. Submission guidelines can be found in solicitations as they occur (link will be provided here when a solicitation is live).
- Submitted statements are reviewed by the Research Oversight Task Force. Selected ideas are proprietary to TDOT. The person submitting a selected original idea will be acknowledged for their contribution in the final report for the project. Outside submitters from institutions eligible to conduct the research are not guaranteed the opportunity to conduct the research from their idea simply by submitting it. Our proposal process is always competitive for State Planning and Research (SPR) projects over $100,000. Projects that are less than this amount may be eligible for our Quick Response Program.
- A research sponsor is identified from TDOT, who will be the project point of contact, also called Lead Staff. Any additional staff or divisions identified with interest in the project will be included as part of a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) for the project. The Lead Staff person identified is then responsible for developing the Research Request for Proposal (RRFP) document. This document further details the need by TDOT staff to ensure proposals will meet the minimum needs of the DOT. The RRFP will be used for the formal Call for Proposals for applicants to respond to when producing their submissions.
- Once completed, RRFPs will be submitted to TDOT executive leadership for final approval before moving into the formal Call for Proposals through the Webgrants system.
- Selected Research Requests for Proposas (RRFPs) for the current period are posted for a Call for Proposals, which is run through TDOT's WebGrants system. The next Call for Proposals is expected to be in Winter 2021-Spring 2022 and will be open for approximately six weeks.
- After applying through the WebGrants system, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) at TDOT review and evaluate the submitted proposals. SMEs score the proposals, and the ones that SMEs select to win (along with final executive leadership approval) are awarded a research grant, contingent on the winner having less than the allowable number of active research projects.
- Awardees are notified via email. At this point, comments taken from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) along with the Research Office are used to negotiate any additional needs from TDOT into the contract.
- FHWA reviews projects for their consistency with the federal requirements for research projects and approves funding on a project-by-project basis.
- Once final proposal negotiation is complete, the project moves into the contracting process led by the Administration Office in Long Range Planning. For research projects, the Long Range Planning Division uses a Designated Grant Authority (DGA) for contracts. This makes all contract bodies the same, considerably condensing the contract approval process. Any changes to this contract can require a lengthy review, stalling project timelines. More information can be found on the Administration Office's Contract page.
- During the contract period, researchers must provide quarterly progress reports and invoices as well as any deliverables required. Lead Staff and Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) are to be involved with regular updates and should provide guidance on project direction to ensure findings will be informative and can provide an appropriate method for implementation.
- At the end of the project, federal regulation requires final reports to be submitted that detail the “data collected, analyses performed, conclusions, and recommendations” (23 CFR 420.209).
- The Research Office requires that all media related to projects and reports be discussed with the Research Office prior to agreement or submission. TDOT retains its copyright for the specific works and deliverables that come from projects paid for with state and federal funds. The Office also sends its report to partner institutions as required by FHWA. including:
1. FHWA Research Library : This library does not distribute copies or lend to the public materials from its collection. The Federal Highway Research Library serves "the information needs of FHWA employees by providing materials, reference/research assistance, and other support services." Those outside FHWA looking to get access to materials that would be in this collection should use ROSA P or NTIS, discussed below in the NTL and NTIS sections.
2. Turner Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) : Reports are sent to the Office of Corporate Research, Technology, and Innovation Management at TFHRC. This office "develops and executes communications and outreach that support FHWA-wide RD&T programs and... delivery needs of the agency." Reports are not shared through this agency but are used to inform nationally-led research efforts.
3. National Transportation Library (NTL) : The National Transportation Library runs the ROSA P Repository & Open Science Access Portal. Collections include Bureau of Transportation Statistics publications, USDOT Public Access publications, historical transportation publications, and general transportation research publications. The USDOT also developed a Public Access Plan to improve access to the results of federally funded research in 2013., leading to the development of the ROSA P repository.
4. National Technical Information Service (NTIS) : NTIS houses the National Technical Reports Library, which holds a collection of historic and current government technical reports. Anyone can search their collection at the NTIS website or through the NTRL search option.
5. Transportation Research Board Library (TRID) : As required by federal regulations, Research Offices from every DOT must submit their projects to the Research in Progress (RiP) database, where, upon completion of the research, the report will be transferred to the TRID database. TRID is run by the Transportation Research Board (TRB). This database "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." This is a comprehensive collection of transportation research and highly recommended for finding information you may be looking for related to transportation.
6. Transportation LIbrary at Northwestern University (NU) - The NU Transportation Library currently has a collection with over half a million items on a wide variety of trasnportation topics. The library notably includes law enforcement materials, a large collection of environmental impact statements, digitized regional transportation materials, and rarer archived materials like letters and maps.