On Sun, Apr 27, 2014 at 12:37 PM, Michael Peel <em...@mikepeel.net> wrote:

> Hi Risker,
> On 27 Apr 2014, at 16:01, Risker <risker...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > However, having accepted the validity of the "proposal", the FDC does not
> > have the authority to delegate its role.
> I think you're misunderstanding what has been delegated here. The FDC is
> asking WMDE to do the 'staff assessment' of the proposals, e.g. here's the
> one for WMDE from last round:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FDC_portal/Proposals/2013-2014_round1/Wikimedia_Deutschland_e.V./Staff_proposal_assessment
> This is normally done by the WMF/FDC staff, not by the FDC itself. It's a
> separate document from the recommendations that the FDC makes each round.
> None of the role of the FDC itself has been delegated here.

The potential problem is straightforward. Look at the FDC recommendation
for WMDE in the same round as the staff assessment you linked; they are
very similar - same conclusions, even similar or identical language. A
little analysis would reveal how often the FDC deviates from staff
assessments, perhaps someone has done that already? If the answer is not
often, then pointing out that the FDC writes its own recommendations is
disingenuous - the staff assessments are clearly quite influential in the
final decision.

> > particularly when there are obvious conflicts of
> > interest involved.  The lack of recognition of that conflict of interest
> on
> > the part of the FDC is a very serious matter, and raises doubts about the
> > impartiality of the FDC as a whole.
> In my personal opinion, WMDE has no more a COI here than the WMF/FDC staff
> has when they do the staff assessments of the other FDC applications.
> Remember that WMDE/WMF aren't in direct competition for money from the same
> pot here.
I agree here. In the context of the WMF and WMDE seeking approval for
funding from the FDC, staff of both organizations have unavoidable
conflicts when performing assessments of the proposals. Obviously in this
immediate situation the WMF are not asking for funding approval. But
obviously there is the hope that eventually they will be, and it seems
likely that the practices established in this round may be carried forward.

> > It's all well and good for your
> > members to step out of the room while discussing certain applications,
> but
> > with 4 of 9 FDC members being directly affiliated with supplicant groups,
> > your standards for avoidance of conflict of interest need to be
> > significantly stronger.  There was good reason for concern that the FDC
> is
> > becoming a self-dealing group without this delegation of responsibility.
> I think you're going off on a tangent here, and I don't think there's a
> big problem with how things are working at the moment with COI handling on
> the FDC, but I'd be interested to know how you'd strengthen this?

This is definitely a tangent, but a real point. The FDC members come from
interested parties. Conflict is unavoidable, no matter how careful you are.
It's built into the structure of the committee and there may be no superior
alternative. The stakeholders want a vote in where the money goes.  That's
not unreasonable, but there are risks. Mitigating those risks would take
serious reform, and I don't see much appetite for that right now.

On the subject of consultants performing the staff assessment.. It's not
necessary for consultants to be deeply embedded in open access, free
software culture or the tech non-profit world. The work to be done is not
rocket science. There are many consultants experienced in reviewing grant
proposals for non-profits. At worst the assessment would be more
quantitative than those of the past; that may be a feature rather than a
bug, as it allows the FDC to develop its own qualitative assessment without
outsourcing that work.

The WMF and the FDC can afford genuine outside help, and the cost is well
worth it if it neutralizes many potential sources of future conflict.
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