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July 05, 2011


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My observations are that it is difficult to break into the policy world from the technology side, at least within the (US) government. And this is a particular concern in the computing/large scale scientific instrument world which is dominated by federal investment.

Of course you have to have the proper Hatch Act sensitivities, but those are easy. The harder part is the reality that interactions between technologists and policy teams are relatively rare and thus are often viewed to be high stakes activities from the technology side, with a huge penalty for failure or even a single misstep. Senior executives frequently keep these activities to themselves to minimize the opportunities for someone to say the wrong thing at the wrong time, with the sad result that many newly-minted senior executives are thrown onto the bridge between policy and technology after promotion without the benefit of ever having seen the lay of the land before. If they manage to white-knuckle their way through the early interactions without breaking anything, they tend to perpetuate the isolationist approach. If they blow it, well, then that just reinforces the perceived dangers of the activity. Either way, the cycle is never broken and next generation leaders rarely have a structured opportunity to learn the skills they need to really contribute before they are learning on the job. I think this is particularly unfortunate today when (to my mind) we need as many perspectives and fresh approaches as possible to maintain a lively investment in large-scale instrumentation and scientific computation as a driver for future innovation.

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Dan Reed
Dan Reed

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