Crowdsourcing + Collaboration = Better Airport Research

Mike Salamone

In the spirit of continuous improvement and service to the industry, the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) recently modernized its process for generating research projects. The old process of airport practitioners submitting research ideas, or “problem statements,” on paper was no longer efficient; so we used technology to improve it. 

Our new system, IdeaHub, is an online platform that crowdsources the industry’s ideas and creativity to generate high-quality problem statements. Launched in November 2017, it makes submitting and developing ideas efficient, transparent, highly engaging and even fun! 

Unlike the old system, IdeaHub includes a feedback mechanism for submitters, a systematic method for capturing ideas that have merit but need improvement, and a way for industry stakeholders to strengthen ideas through discussion and collaboration. Custom built for ACRP, our new system provides a clear, user-friendly space where industry members can post ideas and collaborate with like-minded practitioners to grow their ideas into quality problem statements. Like other social media platforms, IdeaHub is easy-to-use and intuitive. Members can scroll through posts, vote ideas up/down, and comment on each other’s work. Having multiple sets of eyes from across the industry looking at and commenting on ideas will strengthen them and enhance their relevance before they are submitted for evaluation and possible funding.  

IdeaHub makes tracking an idea through the problem statement development process easier and allows users to engage to any extent they choose. For example, you can simply submit an idea, or usher it through the entire process. Users can participate through a variety of roles:

Idea Owners commit to developing a small team and collaborating with others to refine ideas by providing additional information as necessary. If an idea creator chooses not to “own” his/her idea, other participants may adopt and subsequently “own” it. Owners ultimately submit finalized ideas as official problem statements to ACRP for project consideration.

Idea Teams work with Idea Owners to flesh out and fine-tune ideas, making them the best they can be. 

Idea Mentors are volunteers who are trained in the elements of high-quality problem statements and the key criteria ACRP uses to evaluate them. As subject matter experts, these mentors know the research topics in depth and can greatly enhance ideas and help them become most useful and valuable to the airport industry. 

Topic Moderators are individuals with expertise in specific topic areas who help identify gaps in potential statements before they are officially submitted and offer guidance to Idea Teams for strengthening the quality of their statements. They work behind the scenes, answer questions from team members and guide users interested in adopting “unowned” ideas. Moderators receive technical training about working within the IdeaHub platform and are a resource for the entire user community.


Mike Salamone, manager of the Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), has guided the investment of more than $126 million into research that has created a rich library of more than 400 publications. ACRP is sponsored by the FAA and managed by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies of Sciences,  Engineering and Medicine. Program oversight and governance are provided by representatives of airport operating agencies and other industry stakeholders appointed to the ACRP Oversight Committee by the Secretary of Transportation.

Other benefits of the new system include improved and transparent recordkeeping: The platform maintains an electronic record of all discussion surrounding an idea. Because records are kept for all problem statements, users can retrieve statements not selected for funding to reconsider in future years.

Ultimately, IdeaHub will help serve airports for years to come by encouraging industry participation in the flow and development of new ideas to improve airports and ultimately serve and respond to the industry’s unmet needs. 

To access ACRP’s new online platform, visit http://IdeaHub.TRB.org.




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