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.