A meeting with social scientists led me to wonder: what "stories" should we be telling people embarking on cyberinfrastructure projects, to help them avoid mistakes and achieve success? A good story is presumably something subtle and clever: it entertains, and simultaneously conveys a message--but at a subconcious level.
A new report posted on the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Office of Cyberinfrastructure web site, Cyberenvironment Project Management: Lessons Learned, summarizes lessons learned from the Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES) project, a major NSF program to both upgrade equipment used for civil engineering research and to connect that equipment into a national "collaboratory." NEES was one of the first major projects of this sort, and it was certainly full of learning experiences. In my somewhat informed and certainly biaised view (I was involved in NEES, and contributed to the report), the report captures some useful wisdom. Reading it, you may well think "management 101," and it is--but there are also some subtle points made.
As useful it is, Lessons Learned doesn't tell stories, and perhaps it should. I might start with these:
- At the first big meeting, all the civil engineers wore jacket and tie (yes, they were all men). None of the IT team wore a tie (or a jacket, I think), and many were wearing jeans.
- The lights that went on, among even skeptical engineers, when the IT team first brought "Mini-MOST" (Multi-Site Online Simulation Test)--a simple and portable shake table--to a meeting, and demonstrated teleoperation and telepresence.
Both need some development, but perhaps there is some raw material for the Cyberinfrastructure Telenovella?