Funding science: When bureaucrats get out of control

Daniel Lemire, Sept 02, 2013
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I remember once meeting with some directors at Industry Canada to recommend among other things a common format for the submission of data to government and other entities. The format I was recommending was a version of RSS, which individuals could create in their own way and maintain on their own website, and which could be accessed by any government or private agency contemplating funding, support, hiring or whatever. I also recommended a similar mechanism be employed for businesses and organizations interacting with the government. What we should absolutely not do, I argued, would be to create a submission-form based processed, because it would be cumbersome, very difficult to design efficiently, and limited in use to whomever received the form data.

Needless to say, my advice was not followed, and today I am reading about a forms-based submission process researchers in Canada must follow in order to qualify for grants and support. The form process (it is much more than a single form; it appears to hundreds of forms) can be accessed here. The protest site, currently a petition form Canadian academics, can be viewed here. Daniel Lemire explains, "it is a monster requiring between 2 days to 2 weeks of work depending on how senior you are." I'm not sure that I would ever finish the process of completing the form. The data collectors need to do better than this.

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