Thursday, May 03, 2007

Robert H. Sloan on Being an NSF Program Director

Via the Geomblog, a blog that I warmly recommend, I learned about this two-page article by Robert H. Sloan, who was program director for the “Theory of Computing program” at NSF from January 2001 till August 2002. This is a light-hearted piece on why one should serve the community in that role, and what it takes to do a good job at it.

Here is a quote I liked:
Being a program director also gives you the ability to provide two good services to your research community. First, you have some ability to drive the direction of the research community. Second, you get to run the best, fairest competitions for funding possible. There is really quite a difference between the best panel run by somebody who knows the research area, knows who are likely to be good panelists, and is good at managing such things, and a panel run by an outsider who is a fair to middling manager of such things.

Indeed there is, but somehow we all hope that it is somebody else who takes care of running the best and fairest for funding possible.

The Geomblog offers another quote from the piece on the hazardous job of being Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

On the topic of community service, my stint as head of department is going to end in a couple of weeks or so. My department and the School of Science and Engineering have undergone a sudden restructuring, and we have hired Ari K. Jónsson (NASA Ames) to become Dean of the new School of Computer Science. I'll write more on all of the above when the dust settles, and I find some breathing space.

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