Decentralized research: a note on working together in Horizon 2020 projects


#1

This note is intended for:

  1. Team leaders: @nadia, @noemi, @johncoate, @matthias, @amelia, @alberto (with my NetSci hat)

  2. The research network core: @marina and @alberto (with my RezNet hat)

H2020 projects differ from other Edgeryders projects in many ways. One of the most confusing is that, by definition, we cannot deliver them alone. We participate in consortia, and need to work with consortium partners. This puts us all in contact not only with the organizational issues of Edgeryders (inertia, lossy communication, imperfect foresight, clunky processes etc.), but with those of all other partners in the consortium as well. This is inevitable.

To make the situation workable, we at the RezNet did quite some work with team leaders in the proposal writing phase and then again in the grant agreement negotiation phase. This was to make sure team leaders had a structure of the work we could work with (example: no key inputs depending on other partners, that might not deliver) and adequate resources. But, as with all human things, that is an imperfect process. Now, in the implementation phase, there will be remaining issues.

The message is this: team leaders are responsible for dealing with those issues. Please, resist the temptation to think “oh, somebody must know how I should do this, I am going to ask around”. As so often in Edgeryders, there is no higher authority with The Plan. You are it. Examples include:

  • You would like to organize a training and event in coordination with the event already organized with another partner. Reach out to the partner in question, and discuss it with them. Do not ask Marina or myself to ask them, or organize a call with them. Any time you can cut out the middlemen, do it.
  • You are supposed to hire people to do some work, but you are unsure of how many, for how long etc. The Descriptions of the actions are your friends here. They are attachments to the Grant Agreements, which you can easily find in the Team Drives of the respective projects. They contain authoritative budgets and work plans – we are answerable for those to the Commission. We also have more detailed internal budgets, that were discussed with all of you during proposal and negotiation: POPREBEL, NGI Forward (these links are only accessible to authorized users). Read the documents, a lot of info is there. Again, you might need to coordinate with other partners; and again, please reach out to them directly.
  • You do not know how to do admin stuff (contracts, timesheets etc.). Online documentation and templates (for example for contracts) are there for most issues. If they do not solve your problem, of course, do ask for help! And maybe, once you have received it, help others by updating and improving the documentation.

The RezNet core’s main responsibility is project acquisition: we try to get new, interesting projects, make alliances, forge strategies, etc. There are also two operational things for which you should talk to us:

  • If you want to violate the grant agreement/description of action. Maybe you want to reschedule a deliverable; maybe you want to reallocate some money from “staff” to “travel”, or viceversa. These things are almost always possible and easy (with a good reason), but do not do them without asking, because there may be formal procedures involved.
  • The biweekly project check. We are trying to have a short (20/30 mins) online meeting every other week to see where people are. The RezNet core’s part is to check on who needs to deliver what in the near future.

#2

I stand corrected : I had asked Marina to make sure the trainings happen and chase people, because I didnt see any action from John (re: NGI community management trainings pending) and Amelia (re: ethno trainings pending). And usually Anique would always check availability and liaise with the partners, but this is obviously not the case now that the projects started and we know each other.

Thanks for clarifying!


#3

Yes I had a number of misunderstandings about this, largely based on working with Anique ad various assurances she gave about navigating these process details.

There is this email vs platform issue. We’re just going to have to cajole the more reluctant people to use the platform except when not using it is necessary.


#4

Exactly, thanks for making this point. Kickoff meetings are where “the ice is broken”. After them, the projects are live and the relationship with the consortium moves from the RezNet core to the team in charge of delivery. Disintermediation happens.


#5

Good example, John. Again, this is a project-political issue. No one has “the right information” or the authority to beat people on the head. “Email rebellions” are a classic of these situations. They have to be solved politically.


#6

I am always willing to help as much as it is in my power :slight_smile: Considering that I am just starting, in this stage it would be very useful to know exactly when and how I am supposed to intervene, in what situations (as I didn’t get that info as a handover)


#7

OK, so this means full steam ahead with hiring for NGI? There was a lot of ambiguity in the last call about languages. Can we follow up and concretise this tomorrow @noemi @johncoate @nadia @marina? Then I will put out a call.


#8

I have a conversation going with Heshani - the admin with NESTA - about these details. Mainly the goal is to get them onto the platform so we can discuss these details right here. Right now there is not a quorum of partners in here. She put out a group message and that didn’t get response, so will contact them all individually. If that doesn’t get them on there, I will call them myself. If the partners don’t play, and soon, we have a problem. I don’t know if I will hear back from her by tomorrow, but hopefully.

Speaking of the “email vs platform habit syndrome,” if we may coin it thus, we have a strong case of it with our partners…in both projects.

But let us assume that:

  • they will get onto the platform
  • they will want a forum in each of those languages (English, French, Italian, German, Polish)
  • I will most likely manage the English language space myself

So, given that, yes we need to recruit for the training in April.


#9

Well, clearly this ambiguity has to be resolved.

  • If this is an Edgeryders-only decision (that is, if Edgeryders has the resources to do hire the people and deploy, without having to rely on other partners), then we should just make it. In this case we are causing the ambiguity, and we can remove it. Team leaders have last word, with careful consideration of what the DOA says.
  • If it is a consortium-wide decision (that is, if it cannot be implemented without the active involvement of other partners, who need to spend their own money and time to implement it), then team leaders need to make it, with these other partners and careful consideration of what the DOA says. In this case the ambiguity might result from a hidden divergence across partners.