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Civil Works Research Area Review Groups go virtual during COVID-19 pandemic

Data is collected using the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck, N.C. The FRF’s civil works mission includes Coastal Ocean Data System and Coastal Field Data Collection under the Flood and Coastal Risk Management Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) program.

Data is collected using the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Field Research Facility (FRF) in Duck, N.C. The FRF’s civil works mission includes Coastal Ocean Data System and Coastal Field Data Collection under the Flood and Coastal Risk Management Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) program.

The Ship Tow Simulator at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory aides in testing and improving navigation channel design. The Navigation Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) program is part of the ERDC’s overall civil works mission.

The Ship Tow Simulator at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory aides in testing and improving navigation channel design. The Navigation Research, Development and Technology (RD&T) program is part of the ERDC’s overall civil works mission.

VICKSBURG, Miss. – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recently overcame the hurdle of conducting its annual Environmental, Navigation and Flood Risk Management Research Area Review Groups (RARGs) virtually due to physical distancing considerations related to COVID-19.

The RARG meetings, typically held over the course of a few days in April, are the cornerstones of the present USACE civil works research and development (R&D) process, facilitating review and ranking of research needs submitted by districts, divisions, centers of expertise and researchers across the organization. During typical in-person RARGs, the meetings also facilitate team-building, technology transfer and hands-on learning about facilities, emerging products and methods.

This year, spanning the entire month of April, USACE leadership, along with the Technical Programs Offices from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s (ERDC) Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL) and Environmental Laboratory, organized Environmental, Navigation and Flood Risk Management virtual RARGs to discuss, revise, combine and rank statements of need for future research.

“The most challenging aspect was scheduling across time zones and with consideration to increased workloads and the pressures of a teleworking scenario,” said Brandon Boyd, associate technical director for CHL. “Once those challenges were addressed, we had increased participation in the virtual format versus the in-person format likely due to no travel requirements by the attendees.”

“After logistics, it was adapting on the fly to changes in schedule and processes as we learned to do this 100% virtually for the first time,” he said. “Communication was more difficult without people physically together, but a dedicated Wiki site and help from the ERDC Corporate Communications Office allowed us to communicate consistent information and distribute resources.”

“Some attendees appreciated the ability to review materials at their own pace and discuss as a group in the online forum,” said Julie Rosati, technical director for Flood Risk Management at CHL. “Several of the streamlined methods developed during the virtual meetings to comment, rank and review supplemental material were successful and will be expanded for future use.”

The RARG serves several purposes in the ERDC civil works research, development and technology (RD&T) business area, including prioritizing research for next year; providing an update on accomplishments in research since last year; transferring technology of emerging tools, products and capabilities from the ERDC to the business lines in the field; and developing and strengthening relationships between the districts and ERDC principal investigators.

“The creation and fostering of relationships between USACE colleagues is a crucial piece of successful R&D,” said Boyd, reflecting on the drawbacks of the virtual engagement and the absence of in-person dialogue at the Flood Risk Management RARG. “The virtual environment didn’t provide for the same type of in-person technical discussions that result in exchange of technology and ideas that spur future efforts and collaborations. That considered, the needs of the field were heard, discussed and prioritized. We were able to hear from our USACE leaders on their strategic vision for R&D.”

ERDC’s civil works RD&T business areas provide innovative and environmentally sustainable solutions to the nation’s water resources challenges. All R&D is performed by innovative engineers and scientists that anticipate, create, deliver and maintain the scientific and technological resources required to solve these challenges.

 

The following is a list of ERDC’s RD&T programs:

Environmental RD&T programs:

Ecosystem Management Research and Restoration Program

Aquatic Nuisance Species Research Program

Aquatic Plant Control Research Program

Navigation RD&T programs:

Coastal Inlets Research Program

Dredging Operations and Environmental Research

Dredging Operations Technical Support

Dredging Innovations Group

Inland Electronic Navigation Charts

Monitoring Completed Navigation Projects

National Coastal Mapping Program

Navigation Systems Research Program

Regional Sediment Management Program

Flood and Coastal Risk Management RD&T programs:

Flood & Coastal Systems

Coastal Ocean Data System

Coastal Field Data Collection