Hello all, I would like to point out to some parts of the post I see as factually incorrect. If we are to have documentation about leadership, let's make it right. Additionally, I want to answer the question that Anique asks me about "forming a team".
1. The following statement does not match with what I know
The Edgeryders company, with a board vote in summer 2017, decided to put up some money and some of my (unpaid) time to set up the Edgeryders Research Network. The network is supposed to make money by doing research, but it has additional strategic imperatives. One is connecting the outliers ("people on the edge") to the center of our societal governance (large orgs like the European Commission). Another is create meaningful work opportunities for people in the community. These imperatives are Edgeryders (and myself in particular) calling the shots, on the basis that it and I did the work of creating and maintaining the RezNet.
The research network hub, @anique.yael and myself, after talking to many people in the community and outside of it, made the final call about which calls to invest in ("invest": spend time and money building consortia and writing proposals), and then spent our own time doing it. We did not ask for the board's permission, nor should we have done so, because "all the intentionality is at the level of the projects". So, we did the work and called the shots. We are continuing to do so in the 2019 campaign.
In that phase (early 2018), we asked some people, called "team leaders" in the post, to commit to certain KPIs ("if we get you 15K for engagement, can you get me 350 participants?"). This was necessary, because quantitative indicators are a requirement of writing H2020 proposals. Team leaders are, as Anique writes, people who have built up experience doing this kind of thing. The deal is: they take responsibility for delivering on those targets and those budgets (they "do the work); in return, they get to choose how to allocate the budgets, who to hire etc. (they call the shots).
So, it seems to me that the situation Anique describes is one where who does the work does, indeed, call the shots. However:
This is true. But this is because (1) Anique did not do "the work" but an (important) part of it; but more importantly, because she has already moved into delivery. She is taking overall responsibility for the delivery, which means she gets to decide how we report, what internal deadlines we should meet so that the deadlines contained in the Grant Agreements are not compromised etc. But she has no jurisdiction over how we (team leaders) do what we do (and vice versa).
2. The word "responsibilities" needs disambiguating
Anique's text does not distinguish between two kinds of responsibilities. They may be clear to her, but if you are not familiar with EU research you might get confused. For example:
This is not correct. LSIGN is a role assigned to me within the EC's Research Participants Portal. All it means is that I am authorized to digitally sign the grant agreement on behalf of the grant's beneficiary, Edgeryders OÜ. But the legal responsibility for delivering the project stays with Edgeryders, and the people called on to answer if Edgeryders fails spectacularly, or misuses funds, are its directors.
If you are curious as to why the Participants Portal uses such confusing terminology, read the paragraph below the two horizontal lines. Warning: it's not very interesting.
The Portal automates and rationalizes a lot of the paperwork around assigning and monitoring research grants, like for example, digitally signing grant agreements. To do this, it has a system of roles. Any legal entity can have (and normally does have) multiple users connected to it (we have three: Anique, Noemi and myself). Every legal entity must have at least one user with a role called LEAR, which stands for "Legal Entity Appointed Representative". Both @noemi and I are LEARs for Edgeryders. The LEARs have the power to assign other roles, such as LSIGN, to other users in the same legal entity. The role of LEAR is given to a user by the portal's admins, upon reception of (paper) letters of appointment signed by directors, proof of ID, and legal documents proving that, indeed, Edgeryders does have directors with the same names as the people signing those letters of appointment.
So, the Commission knows that Edgeryders directors made me a LEAR; and they know that I made then myself LSIGN; and they can see that I digitally sign the agreement. So they can go up the chain of responsibilities: the signature was made by the LSIGN, who was empowered to do so by the LEAR, who was appointed by the directors, who are ultimately legally responsible for delivering the project. This whole charade is a system to pin the legal responsibility for anything done on the portal to the people whom company law says are responsible for what Edgeryders does: its directors. That's where the buck stops, as it should.
This is true. However, these are all internally assigned responsibilities. If any of the people mentioned in the post should decide to drop out, join a Zen monastery and never get involved with research again, that would not be a problem for the Commission, regardless of what is written in the grant agreements. The beneficiary of the grants is not a collection of physical persons, but a legal entity, Edgeryders OÜ. As long as it delivers good quality research and does good, timely reporting, projects go on as planned. In principle we could replace the whole team (and I have been in projects where some partners did just that). The reason why we care so much about the team is internal. Anique and I reasoned that there was no way that the two of us could oversee projects this big. So we decentralized them, by breaking up delivery into functions (engagement, community management etc.) and asked people with the most experience to take responsibility for them.
3. Am I forming a data analysis team?
Not right now, but there might be one at some point down the line. The data analysis we committed to doing is something I can do myself, and am very much looking forward to doing some actual data science after all this proposal writing and conference calls partaking. Also, I have no budget besides what I allocated as my own salary, so any extra person coming on board has to be paid by me foregoing part of my income. This is, however, not out of the question, especially if we get more research projects in the coming years.
What I am forming is the digital ethnography skunkworks. I did allocate part of my budget to giving a small contract to Sander to get this done. I plan to fundraise somehow to build the DES up into a small but mean corner of Edgeryders where we do "blue sky" thinking and prototyping on integrating complex systems modelling with social science. @hugi and @amelia (hopefully) will be involved in this, and maybe others.
- Work package structure is unimportant
The division into functions, each attended by a team, is correct, but work packages have got nothing to do with it. Here's why. EC funded research projects are traditionally divided into Work Packages (WPs). These are "units of work", themselves divided into tasks. They are essentially a narrative tool: you use them to build a high-level description of a project. I personally do not think they are particularly effective even as a narrative tool, unless the project is "waterfall". Waterfall projects are now considered outdated and frowned upon. With our proposals, we have tried to think instead in layers. For example OpenCare:
When we wrote the OpenCare proposal (spring 2015), we dominated it: we did 90% of the proposal writing, had the science lead and were originally the consortium leader. Each of those functions was written into its own work package, where it got integrated with the homologous functions carried out by other partners. Edgeryders had person-months and budget in all work packages.
In the 2018 campaign, Anique and I took a different strategy. Instead of starting our own consortia, we joined existing ones, proposing everything we do in the concentrated form of one work package. What ended up happening is that we had to "blend in" a bit better with other WPs. This is a result of our success at establishing ourselves as a hard-working, dependable, intelligent partner. As the company's "face" in those relationship, Anique gets a big part of the credit for that. But that does not mean we do different things: what we do is still going to fall under those six headings, and then the six team leaders are still going to take responsibility for them. Or not: for example, we could have written in the proposal something wildly different, say "fly fishing expeditions for environmental education". That does not fall under any of the headings, so we would have had to look for someone else to take on that responsibility (while still in the phase of proposal writing, hopefully).
I have been encouraging Anique to write herself into the proposals as a researcher, or facilitator, or whatever else she likes to do. As long as this helps the proposals, I think this would be a great idea. Of course, then she would have to take that responsibility in delivery too.