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We invite you to write your own reflection on the NSDL!

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Robby Robson  |  April 11, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I just read through the reflections. Wow! The ones that address the NSDL in its entirety seem amazingly homogenous in their message: The NSDL failed and the reason was lack of focus and a lack of leadership. The comment “a start-up without a CEO” from one of the reflections sums it up or, perhaps, a start-up with no CEO and no business plan.

    More importantly, in one form or another they all point to the program’s structure as a research funder rather than an infrastructure builder as the root cause. I concur. The realities of life in the http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov are omnipresent, but the NSDL community has a strong shared vision of improving STEM education, and I firmly believe that the same people could have created a spectacular success.

    The barrier, according to the reflections, has been a systemically caused inability to follow a unified strategy with clear goals and outcomes. Maybe that is true, but it could equally be a very different systemic problem. In the world of software and entrepreneurs, the mantra is: “fail quickly,” or “fail early and fail often.” This is not overly compatible with competitive grant-based funding. No one ever continues to receive grants for reporting that they dropped $150K in six months on something that turned out to be a very bad idea, yet that has to happen to uncover the one, simple, compelling value proposition that can turn a garage into a Google. Of course, you also have to recognize the good ideas and run with them as fast as you can.

    Permit me, then, to pose a question. Can the NSDL, with the hand that it has been dealt and the culture that it has evolved, learn to “fail quickly” and if so, how?

    Looking forward to responses.

    Reply

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