Conduct a Pilot Study

Where do I start?

Begin by defining the experiment and what you are trying to accomplish. Ensure that you have worked out the specific language that you will use to describe your study and that every team member agrees on this interpretation. If you can, condense the research question, scope, and intent of the study into two or three sentences.

Determine if climate model output variables match what you need for your study.

Gather information on what materials and tools you will need, as well as your testing procedures. You will need to define your terminology and parameters to keep them consistent throughout your research study.

How do I get funding for this project?

If you are working out of a university, contact the affiliated research development office. The university will likely have resources to help you find funding, write grants, and stay compliant. If there is not a research development office associated with your university, other institutions might help you with some tips and resources.

If you are working with state or federal transportation agencies, there are a number of funding programs available. Look online or contact an internal representative to help find a program that suits your needs, is for your area, and will support your project. If you are not familiar with those programs, consider talking or partnering with an infrastructure researcher who has a background in climate change. Contact information can be found here.

What do I need to do while I am conducting the study?

While conducting the study, document your process, problems, successes, data, results, materials, methods, etc. to facilitate the transition to a full study and to more easily compile your research findings. You may want to add evaluations at key landmark points along the way (e.g., at the end of the planning stage, initial implementation, analysis completion, end of the project) to track what has been learned.

The issues that you encounter and dead end paths can be just as helpful as “successful” results. Should you expand your research out of a pilot study to more comprehensive research, you will be able to streamline that process. Dead ends are also useful information to be shared.

Where to get the data and what to do with it

First, determine how you will analyze the climate model output. You can see some example analyses here. The ICNet has also developed some tools to automate typical data preprocessing and analysis, as well as to obtain the output needed as recommended here. Strategies for communicating your climate change results can be found here.

What model do I use?

Because this is only a pilot study, it is fine to only use one to three climate models. ICNet climate scientists have provided some suggestions including this table to pick one model based on your pilot study needs. However, keep in mind that these models vary in how well they deal with particular variables: some work better for rainfall or variability of peak events than others. In order to decide which model will work best with your study, take a look at our spreadsheet on available models, which gives a brief review of existing GCMs.

How do I transition to a larger study?

Conducting a larger study might mean expanding your variables, adding more models (both climate and/or infrastructure models), expanding the number of locations, reframing your question, and checking for other factors that might influence the study outcome. For more information on creating a full-scale study, read our guide to advancing your research.

I still have questions

There are a large variety of resources available via web searches on how to conduct a pilot study. While the information here is tailored toward climate change and infrastructure research, it is not intended to be a comprehensive review of pilot studies best practices.

You can also contact us or submit a request for support if your study needs more partners or individualized service.