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 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.


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