Expert Labs Takes Off The Training Wheels; Looks Really Wobbly

Five months after its unveiling, Expert Labs is actually doing something.  Unfortunately, it appears to fail some basic timing issues.  Back in February, the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council issued a request for information on grand challenges – “hard, unsolved scientific or engineering challenges that will have significant economic or societal impact and address an important national priority.”  The deadline for submissions is April 15.

So why, three days before the deadline, do we have this blog post from the Office of Science and Technology Policy asking for the public to participate in the request for challenges via Twitter and other social networking tools?  I can find nothing in that blog post, the AAAS announcement about it, or the Expert Labs website that suggests they are looking for something different, or that there are different deadlines involved.  In fact, the Expert Labs announcement specifically states they are looking for comments over a 48 hour time period.

Putting aside the dubious possibilities for deliberative input over two whole days, this strikes me as a huge waste of time?  I understand that social networking allows for an immediacy of reaction, but getting the word out still takes time.  I suspect that most of the submissions for this request for information will come from the February announcement, and we can expect little or nothing to come from this flash mob approach to social networking solicitation.  Put this together with the recent failure to notice changes in Science and Engineering Indicators, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy looks a little inept.  Expert Labs continues to look like the potential for a good idea that has yet to realize itself.


House Committee Proposes Refinement of Broader Impact Criterion

Tomorrow the House Science and Technology Committee will markup an authorization bill for the National Science Foundation (NSF).  An authorization bill will set spending amounts for a specific time (fiscal years 2011 through 2015), but the appropriations committees have to actually allocate the money.

Besides the spending levels, the bill does have some specific guidance for spending on research infrastructure; science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; and other specific research foci.  Of note is the language in section 104 on the broader impacts review criterion for grant applications.  Most of the section describes how NSF will develop and implement policy for ‘criteria 2’ that would train relevant parties on the broader impacts criterion and demonstrate more support for that criterion from both the agency and the institutions that support grant applicants.

There is a statement of goals for the Broader Impacts Criterion that caught my eye.

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