Transportation professionals across the world are facing very difficult challenges. They are asked to provide improved transportation systems with limited funding, answer increasingly sophisticated questions, and consider an ever-increasing number of factors in their decision making. The transportation community is, therefore, putting an increased emphasis on basic research, policy studies, and case studies. Because funding for transportation research has not kept up with this demand, existing research programs are very competitive. When submitting a research statement, the following things should be kept in mind to maximize the chance of success:

  • Identify Clear Needs: In many programs your research statement will compete with research needs in a wide variety of topics such as environmental considerations, materials and construction, traffic and mobility, bridges and structures, policy, and finance. Given the competitiveness, it is important to identify your research need as clearly as you can, as well as the impacts of taking no action and the potential benefits.
  • Do Your Homework: Project proponents who fail to do their homework do not fare well. Provide background information, appropriate context, and a summary and discussion of completed and ongoing research so that reviewers are assured that you are aware of related work and understand the scope and intent of the funding program.
  • Discuss the Idea with Peers: It’s important to use your peers to build an interested and supportive constituency and to help improve the definition of the research statement.
  • Plan for Implementing Results: Much of the research conducted in the transportation field is applied. It is helpful to consider how research results will be used and communicate the uses early in the research statement development process. Is particular software necessary as an analytical tool? What details must be known to incorporate a change into a design manual? What information could drive a policy change? Who will make such changes and therefore needs to be aware of your project and ownership of the results?

In addition to these suggestions, a lengthier discussion on writing effective research statements can be found in Appendix A.

After writing and submitting the best research statement you can, your work is not over. You must be a champion for the research statement and shepherd it through the submittal and selection process. If you can find another champion on the selection panel, make contact and offer to provide additional information if needed and generally emphasize the importance of the topic.

If the project is not selected, follow up with the program staff to learn how to improve either the same research statement or future research statements you might submit. Often the program staff can provide comments for the selection panel.

If the project is selected, you are still not “home free.” Any help you can provide the program staff, oversight panel, or consultants will improve the final product. Help can take many forms and is largely dependent on the type of research being conducted. For case studies or syntheses of practices, you might be able to provide contacts with agencies or individuals that have experience in the area, or you could encourage the community to respond to surveys or questionnaires. Figure 2 illustrates this iterative process.

Figure 2. Following up on research statements.

In closing, as a living document, this funding source guide website will only be as strong as the community involvement in its continued update and improvement. Appendix B contains information on submitting additional programs for inclusion on this website and provides a link to a submittal form. If you have any suggestions, additions, or corrections, please contact Sue Sillick.