'Massive waste of time and effort'
Just 3 terms I have heard (or seen) used to describe the latest STFC reprioritisation exercise.
The rumour mill is already grinding and it is not clear at all yet what is true, what is false and what is false but with a grain of truth.
One rumour that is fast spreading is that PPAN ignored most (if not all) of the advice from the advisory panels and just went their own way. They didn't even bother to re-look at the prioritisation from the last programmatic review - a process that still leaves a bitter taste in many mouths, not least as the community had little input and very little faith in the process.
What was the point of this consultation if it did not address the underlying flaws in the previous debacle???
Well, first of all it is far from clear that PPAN ignored the advice of the panels and that they did not re-assess past rankings. In fact there is some demonstrable evidence that some rankings from the past have changed (e.g. Venus Express is just one example, check out the list for yourself and compare with the old version).
The rumour might have been started from PPAN themselves, who released a statement on the STFC website that said:
At its meeting on 28th and 29th September 2009, PPAN developed a preliminary prioritised list of projects for those not considered in the 2007 / 08 Programmatic Review.At first reading this looks like an admission that PPAN did not reconsider or revisit the programmatic review in light of the wide and, supposedly, thorough community consultation. However Jon Butterworth (member of PPAN) told me via Twitter that PPAN did relook at the old list and pointed to several changes (inc Venus Express) that were made.
Furthermore, PPAN will soon be releasing a report detailing how they reached their recommendations and how the advisory panel advice was incorporated.
I await this with interest and I'm keeping my powder dry concerning the consultation until I see that document. I'd like to be re-assured that it was the science questions formulated by the panels that drove their recommendations rather than the facilities themselves (a perceived flaw in both the PPARC and STFC programmatic reviews: facilities leading the science) and how they reconcile the rankings they came up with to the rankings in the panels advice.
I am also keen to hear from the chairs of the advisory panels to get their perspective of the discussions with PPAN and what they thought of the process. Beyond that the Science Board perspective would also be very welcome.
It is very early days to give a ringing endorsement of how STFC has done consultation, anyone who does is jumping the gun a wee bit. At the same time it is a little early to make claims that the process was flawed, even though my own untrusting nature makes me fear that it was (a problem that will persist until the current management is removed and the CEO's 'vision' is kicked into touch)
If it turns out it was flawed, well I think the shit will well and truly hit the fan then and I'll be doing my fair share of flinging.