The laboratory assessment process is designed to enhance laboratory performance and quality by providing feedback to laboratory managers and staff regarding their work. It provides a credible, professional, and objective assessment that further improves stakeholder confidence in the value of the work performed and outcomes produced. It also serves as an opportunity for technical experts, customers, and stakeholders to exchange views on a regular basis with Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) staff. While assessments focus primarily on the conduct of research, they also examine whether the researchers have achieved stated objectives.
The laboratory assessment is a form of expert/peer review. It is an independent assessment by technical and scientific experts whose knowledge and expertise enable them to make credible and unbiased judgments regarding the conduct of the reviewed research. Assessing TFHRC laboratories through expert/peer reviews ensures that the research performed at the TFHRC meets established quality and performance standards. An independent evaluation, laboratory assessments provide a means to determine if the research activities have high potential value and if they have achieved stated objectives. The laboratory assessment process is continuous, with each laboratory having the benefit of an expert/peer review every 4 years.
The main goals of the TFHRC laboratory assessment process are to:
The expert/peer review panel will be comprised of approximately three to five experts/peers who are external to the agency. These experts/peers will be qualified to perform an independent, competent review of the technical and scientific merit and quality of the research.
Being nominated as an expert/peer reviewer is a distinguished recognition of the individual’s professional accomplishments in his or her field of endeavor. The participation of an expert/peer in the review process is broadly acknowledged within the transportation and scientific community.
Panel members may be drawn from:
Panel members (laboratory managers and/or senior scientists) may come from:
Conflict of Interest: Panel members must not be under contract to the FHWA laboratory in any way.
Panel Diversity and Continuity: It is advantageous to have a diversity of backgrounds represented on a review panel, because of the varying perspectives each panel member can bring to panel deliberations. Likewise, it is desirable to have a degree of continuity from one review of a laboratory to the next review of the same laboratory. When possible, one or two panel members from the prior review should serve on the current review panel.
Review panel members must be able to encourage, constructively criticize, and provide positive feedback on what is being accomplished. Panel members must possess:
All panel members must be motivated to participate and contribute their expertise to the enhancement of the host laboratory’s business.
The TFHRC laboratory assessment criteria are based on the Office of Management and Budget’s three criteria for Federal investment in research. These three criteria include relevance, quality, and performance. The laboratory assessment process at the TFHRC particularly highlights the performance and quality criteria, as shown below.
The expert/peer review is accomplished through the collaborative efforts of the expert/peer review panel, the review facilitator, the review manager, other laboratory scientists and managers, and the laboratory’s customers and stakeholders. The expert/peer review generally takes two and a half days. In the case of a group of laboratory reviews, the reviews may take 3 days. The first day generally includes a meeting with FHWA managers, a laboratory tour, and briefings. Time is set aside for the panel to conduct independent fact finding, including interviewing researchers, stakeholders and customers, and synthesizing material learned. The last day includes the preparation of the panel’s report of findings and the closeout session.
The expert/peer review panel obtains information to perform its review from:
The assessment criteria guide the direction of the expert/peer review. The content of the review deals with the administration and operations of the host laboratory and its recently completed research, research in progress, and near-term future activities
|»||Research and Development (R&D) Offices|
|»||Coatings and Corrosion|
|»||Crash Analysis and Testing|
|»||Geometric Design Laboratory|
|»||Highway Safety Information Systems|
|»||Human Centered Systems|
|»||Photometric and Visibility|
|»||Traffic Operations Laboratory|
Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296
|»||Handbook for Expert/Peer Reviews at the TFHRC, Version 2.1, FHWA-HRT-05-033|
|»||The Laboratory Assessment Program TFHRC 2003-2004, FHWA-HRT-05-032|