[CODATA-international] NSF failures Re: October 2019: Publications in the Data Science Journal

Mwitondi, Kassim K.Mwitondi at shu.ac.uk
Sun Nov 3 17:33:55 EST 2019

Hi Falk, that was bold, candid and probably quite agitative, but you couldn't have said it better. Many here will have experienced some of the issues you so emotionally raised, directly or indirectly, with various funding bodies across the globe. There is a kind of rigidity that moves at a much slower pace than the actual demand for data utilisation and knowledge generation. Conventional versus novelty? Probably!

I often look at the efforts made on the UN SDGs 2030 agenda, the descriptive statistics we keep generating and sharing through tools like the SDG Atlas, Millenium Tool and others. We surely can't have a global solution on SDGs and we know that. I always wonder when we are going to deploy the power of HPC and the boundless Big Data Potential! The big players, including the UN itself, are quite silent on that. For two years now, we have been struggling to get funded for what we consider to be an undoubtedly novel approach to SDG modelling. The narrative has been typically around the funding attitude you alluded to!

Your example of bad mining projects and the World Bank case is particularly intriguing. It reminds me of a discussion we had here a few weeks ago about data ownership. The points you raised are exactly why projects need and must be appraised in conjunction with the beneficiary countries and/or institutions. A bit more transparency will help. 


Dr Kassim S. Mwitondi
Sheffield Hallam University
Faculty of Science, Technology and Arts
Communication & Computing Research Centre
9410 Cantor Building, City Campus
153 Arundel Street
Sheffield, S1 2NU
United Kingdom
Tel. +44-114-2256914 (Direct)
Tel. +44-114-2255555 (General)
From: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org> on behalf of Falk Huettmann <fhuettmann at alaska.edu>
Sent: 03 November 2019 19:22:00
To: Mercury Fox <ceds at email.arizona.edu>
Cc: CODATA International <codata-international at lists.codata.org>; Haak, Wouter (ELS-AMS) <w.haak at elsevier.com>
Subject: [CODATA-international] NSF failures Re: October 2019: Publications in the Data Science Journal

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Dear Colleagues, Mercury,

thanks indeed.
As it came up with Mark's comment, and just was requested, here my NSF feedback/opinion on the process and Open Access, as I know and see it last 20 years:

NSF is a global player and it matters,
but to no big surprise it is vastly broken and full of convoluted nothingness, including strategy, bias, career'ism and politics .
It's a waste of everybody's time and just serves a small CLIQUE; a pretty bad one btw.

The rejection rates in NSF proposals are now up to 90% (no kidding).

Many victims are found of that process.

The few awardees who win there are ~always the same, and very old and established ones; of course U.S. centric.
These are ones that are so far away from computers, coding and data, as Silicon Valley from Donald Trump.
And the few young ones are just the ones that follow the same old mold; business as usual.
The actual ecology and science, or relevant sustainability and progress in there is tiny, if at all.

Just see the climate change or Arctic data debacle (add Antarctica or Himalaya, or China NSF, and global ocean crisis to that;
poverty is another major one; even STEM education or NASA).

NSF is not really performance-based, I know of rejections of AI and machine learning work for decades there (instead they love p-values and AIC parsimony to this very day).
NSF is also 100% not interested in applied projects even (for what I see and know)
I also know of people that have over 200 publications but NEVER really got an NSF award.
How come if performance matters, as claimed by NSF ?
NSF flps it all just on the head (already the fact that worthy people 'need to apply' to NSF turns the concept of being award-based).

I think NSF has widely lost the concept of how to fund relevant science, and what for, and how done.
The Royal/National Academies are specifically lost in that, so is ICSU and the U.N.

What those NSF quality improvement discussions, as Mark stated for the Arctic, remind me of:
It's like The World Bank (TWB), when it was criticized it would support/loan bad and harmful projects, e.g. low environmental impact assessments for mine sites.
TWB then upped its minimum standards..."hooray", looks great in public...
but the majority of mining then instead went on with banks and nations outside of TWB, and that was China for instance.
The net effect is that TWB has less business with mine loans, China etc have more, and most mine sites are now operating
world wide without western oversight and driven by Chinese etc standards (which are way below what The West does and allows, or wants to see).
Just see Congo, or see here for an example for Tibet and associated water regions; in case it matters to anybody; hydrodams built for such mines I mentioned.

People suffer and die because of it, so does biodiversity and climate.

NSF is hardly different in the net outcome, so are its champions and jockeys, nor are the EU funding agencies or other nations who follows them.

It's a lame money grab game ('singing chairs') that I do not recommend anybody to be involved in, certainly not as an academic or institution.
It's not science or sustainability, nor good governance at all.
It has perverse outcomes.

Needless to say that I have seen government researchers (=the gov that gives out NSF funds) who essentially review and sit in those panels
competing for the same funds as academics do. This happens directly or indirectly.
Guess who wins ?
And guess who sets those rules and ethics ?

As NSF is so complex and big, you will find exceptions but this just makes my case further.
I find, it's all widely broken and requires a massive fix.
A good way to start is to review this independently, put those details out there, accept those as broken systems, and
then work for a fresh start; ideally, outside of capitalism and industrial, NGO and contractor impacts
(yes, NSF can partner with industry etc, e.g. for technology and in fisheries etc).

So yes, put it in your Data Journals.

It's a global  tragedy and must be perceived and reported accordingly for a fix.
Please follow up with me as needed.

I just share my review here based on the request; it's my opinion based on 20 years of first-hand experience worldwide.
We have also published on several aspects of it for years btw. But nobody really cares, certainly NOT NSF.
Instead, just 'the messenger gets shot', mobbed and marginalized.
So what's really new since medieval times ?

Thanks; very best
      Falk Huettmann PhD, Professor
        Uni of Alaska Fairbanks

RE NSERC in Canada and Arctic, different concept to review and give away the funds, but ~SAME OUTCOME than in the U.S.
Canada shares little Arctic and Polar data, in real world. Lots of mining there, too! What a coincidence.

On Sun, Nov 3, 2019 at 9:32 AM Mercury Fox <ceds at email.arizona.edu<mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu>> wrote:
Hi Anita and All-

I am in the early stages of developing a proposal for an institutional
review of NSF's award process.  I believe that they are currently
receptive to this type of review, and support from publishers and the
open research community would be very helpful.

The solution here is so simple and obvious--tie the money to the data
by making it a deliverable--that there must be something seriously
dysfunctional in the award process.

Funders can just withhold the last 20% (or whatever) of the award
until the data, which they paid for, is formatted and posted according
to agency guidelines. Then we can forget this nonsense about how to
shift community norms toward open research and data sharing, and focus
on how to promote and incorporate FAIR principles in those agency

I think we all know why these simple solutions aren't adopted, and I
think that an institutional review would be a good place to start
moving past those encumbrances.

On 11/3/19, Dewaard, Anita (ELS-HBE) <A.dewaard at elsevier.com<mailto:A.dewaard at elsevier.com>> wrote:
> It would actually be very interesting to 'get you started on the publishing
> industry', Mark!
> I completely agree with Mercury that 'publishers should be partners in the
> research ecosystem, not gatekeepers who determine what gets in
> and what stays out of the sphere of public knowledge':  so what should we
> do, that we're not currently doing, to be the best partners that we can be?
> Thanks so much for your advice!
> Best,
> Anita
> Anita de Waard
> Vice President of Research Collaborations
> Elsevier Research Collaborations Unit
> 71 Hanley Lane, Jericho, VT 05465
> @anitawaard | +1 (619) 252 8589
> -----Original Message-----
> From: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org>>
> On Behalf Of Parsons, Mark
> Sent: Friday, November 1, 2019 1:56 PM
> To: Mercury Fox <ceds at email.arizona.edu<mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu>>
> Cc: Falk Huettmann <fhuettmann at alaska.edu<mailto:fhuettmann at alaska.edu>>; CODATA International
> <codata-international at lists.codata.org<mailto:codata-international at lists.codata.org>>
> Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] October 2019: Publications in the Data
> Science Journal
> I totally agree, Mercury. (Don’t get me started on the publishing industry).
> I just wanted to give credit to one small program (NSF Arctic) that is doing
> the right thing, and that other agencies and programs should follow its
> lead.
> cheers,
> -m.
>> On 1 Nov 2019, at 11:52, Mercury Fox <ceds at email.arizona.edu<mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu>> wrote:
>> Thanks, Mark--that's a great point.  That program's open data policy
>> is stated in the DCL
>> (https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16055/nsf16055.jsp), which also
>> states that the policy is a requirement of international treaty, which
>> probably provides some context for the political will behind the
>> policy in this case.  My point is that this kind of clear policy
>> directive shouldn't be a one-off.
>> And since I'm on a soap box about it, I also don't think it's
>> acceptable for NSF & c. to expect the scientific community to simply
>> shift norms and practices in this regard, when the federal funding
>> agencies are unwilling to change the institutional conditions that
>> drive those norms.
>> And another thing... I also think it's inappropriate for them to pass
>> their oversight and quality control duties to the publishing industry,
>> which is basically a roadmap for corruption.  I'm not pointing fingers
>> at any specific publisher or agency; but publishers should be partners
>> in the research ecosystem, not gatekeepers who determine what gets in
>> and what stays out of the sphere of public knowledge.
>> OK, that's all the rant I have left in me for today.  Thanks everybody
>> and have a great weekend!
>> -Mercury
>> On 11/1/19, Parsons, Mark <parsom3 at rpi.edu<mailto:parsom3 at rpi.edu>> wrote:
>>> On 1 Nov 2019, at 10:04, Mercury Fox
>>> <ceds at email.arizona.edu<mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu><mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu<mailto:ceds at email.arizona.edu>>> wrote:
>>> they could change the norm overnight by simply tying the policy to
>>> the award and requiring open data as a deliverable.
>>> For the record, the NSF Arctic Program does just that, and they
>>> follow up and do QC, AND they fund an archive to make it possible.
>>> cheers,
>>> -m.
>> --
>> Merc Fox
>> Director, CODATA-UA Center of Excellence in Data for Society
>> Data7 + iSchool
>> University of Arizona
>> Tucson, AZ  85721
>> https://ceds.arizona.edu
>> https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0726-7301
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Merc Fox
Director, CODATA-UA Center of Excellence in Data for Society
Data7 + iSchool
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ  85721



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