I suspect the true "problem" isn't one about the process, but one
about the perceived results. When you think about it, people rarely
criticize a project Just for the process. People criticize MS
Windows for being closed-source and thus full of bugs and
functionality problems, but nobody criticizes Apple, which is More 
closed-source in many aspects, because it actually does a good job.

Basically, even though people do not realize it, their reaction
may actually be something of the following:
- GUI team: We can handle the work just fine right now, so we don't
need extra people in our team.
- Others: (Yeah? Then why's the interface still so bad?)

I say this because after an amount of introspection, I realize that
I might have been guilty of this.

I short, I suspect that people are unconsciously blaming GIMP's
Current GUI shortcomings on the GUI team, even though it's not
their fault because:
- they actually haven't had the opportunity to show what they're
fully capable of
- and many GUI problems are actually due to internal architecture 
limitations (layer groups, brush folders etc)

This unconscious connection between the current GUI and the GUI
team's possible accomplishments may give the impression that the
GUI team is under-qualified or incapable of handling the job by 
themselves, which is why outsiders snipe at their reluctance to let 
others join their team in a more permanent way.

At the base of the issue, there may be a transparency problem.
Basically, there is no easy way of tracking the works of the GUI
team right now. There are only three ways of seeing what exactly
what they're up to:
- reading the ideas they've come up with thanks to the GUI blog
submissions (which are only made up of a few lines, aren't that
easy to find back, and are relatively rare)
- go to gui.gimp.org , click "User evaluation notes," then click
"Notes" for individual scenarios, then be confronted with a wall
of text on technical evaluations that most users don't want to 
bother reading.
- go to gui.gimp.org, go to "UI specifications," and find... a total
of 1 entry, for 2.4.

Given this lack of easy, visible and regular updates, people
"conclude" that little work is being done.

The easiest solution, as far as I can tell, is actually to apply
the same principle that the GIMP site's "Feature" page and that
the GIMP UI brainstorm blog apply themselves: using pictures
to speak a thousand words. 

The summary would basically roughly serve the same purpose as a 
visible 2.6 milestone (which should also have mock-ups) would from
a PR point-of-view: show people what's in planning so that people 
won't think of GIMP as a dead project that isn't moving anywhere.
Inkscape has a screenshots section for future features, and that
does wonders for showing people the future evolution of the program.

Are there any plans for a "Future feature" page on the GIMP
website? If there is, it could be made up of two sections:
- Future features (with mock-ups based on the 2.6 milestone)
- Future GUI improvements (a whole section dedicated to GUI
improvement! This is sure to score points among critics of the
GIMP interface)

The future GUI improvement section could contain screenshots of a
few key UI improvements in planning (they don't need to include
everything), with eventually an explanation of dependencies such
as GEGL. As long as people know that they Are being planned,
they'll be relatively happy and not get the impression that GIMP
doesn't care about UI improvements. If the features aren't planned 
for any time soon but Are on the long-term plans, an explanation is
enough to let users know that the GUI team isn't GUI-stupid but
simply isn't capable of implementing the changes Yet.

Then add a call for help on implementing prior dependencies, and
maybe you'll even get more developers.

Said section could end with "Got more ideas? Submit to the 
GUI-brainstorm!" And that's it. PR problem solved. Lack manpower? 
Get someone else to do the mock-ups for you. Given the number of
submissions to GUI-brainstorm, it should be easy enough to find 

Add the occasional news update on GUI rework progress, and that's 
even better! "GIMP is finally taking the GUI problem seriously!" - 
would claim people who haven't noticed the work already under way.

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