Repent Harlequin

Time passes, heading towards the closing hour for the STFC consultation. Who will be turned off, and who is the ticktock man anyway ?

I am in Strasbourg, running the bi-ennial Technology Forum for the European Virtual Observatory, as part of the VOTECH project. But actually I am spending half the time on email, preparing or helping to prepare multiple submissions to STFC to protect various projects – AstroGrid, UKIRT (read UKIDSS), WFAU/CASU, XMM.

It would be a depressing week if it weren’t for the fact that Strasbourg is a groovy place and the food is nice. I have of course been eating Tartes Flambees nearly all week. Just don’t call it pizza or the locals get cross.

24 Responses to Repent Harlequin

  1. Tony says:

    Baeckeoffe. Drool!

  2. andyxl says:

    Tony this looked like an anagram at first but then I realised that Baeckeoffe is another Alsatian culinary delight. Which I didn’t try. Better go back..

  3. STFC fan - not STFC fan says:

    Just to point out to anyone that thought about sleeping on their draft comments for the “consultation” overnight, wondering if it was prudent to remove some of the more colourful language etc. before submitting today the answer is “no” – closing date of 21st of March apparently means before 9am on 21st of March.

    Do STFC even want comments ? Do they even read the programmatic reviews ? They sure as **** can’t add up, so maybe they can’t read either.

    I’m certainly not getting any less angry the longer this goes on.

  4. Kav says:

    I have seen an email from John Womersley stating the consultation closes at 23:59 on the 21 March and that he would make sure the web time knew. Obviously there was a breakdown in communication somewhere.

    It is likely a simple technical screw-up but when added to the litany of screw-ups with regard to community communication it hardly inspires confidence! I know I am seriously p***ed off about it.

    Not sure how best to remedy this though it might be wise to email the panel directly and drop a line to John Womersley.

  5. Tom says:

    Apparently a closing date of 21st March means end of day 20th March for STFC. You have to wonder why they couldn’t be more specific.

  6. andyxl says:

    Oh jeez … I was still finishing the UKIDSS response …I have just emailed John Womersley, and hopefully in the circumstances he will simply accept email submissions during the course of today. I will certainly send mine later today.

  7. STFC fan - not STFC fan says:

    you want to email JW some well thought out and constructive arguments about why your project doesn’t deserve wiping out of existence in order to help pay for a 40 million quid project to help NASA to count the Moon ? I can’t see why he’d be interested !

  8. andyxl says:

    count the moon ? wuh ?

  9. andyxl says:

    Dear STFC fan-not STFC fan : I am sure that STFC genuinely do want comments. The consultation exercise is not a sham. I think senior figures see it not just as mollifying the masses, but as getting useful extra info in, that will help them fine-tune the plan. However, the number of people on the panels, and their breadth of experience, means that we will get some extremely interesting thoughts, that won’t just be viewable as tuning. They will often be “err.. well I wouldn’t start from here”. So this is going to give PPAN a real headache…. Gawd knows where this will end up.

  10. Watcher says:

    I think the date mix up was a genuine error probably related to a local holiday in Swindon Office on Thursday.

    After all the noise it will indeed be interesting to see if the panels can come up with a better overall solution than PPAN did.

  11. Bad Friday says:

    It’s not just Swindon that makes a hash of things. Most of the Blackford Hill site has been without e-mail today and much of yesterday in the lead up to the important community feedback and ESO deadlines (and the Gemini deadline).

  12. Rob Ivison says:

    Talking of which, I do hope you sent copies of your comments to John Womersley from a non-ROE account, Andy? I just did some tests and nothing is getting in or out of ROE on normal timescales, possibly not at all.

  13. Phil Uttley says:

    I discovered that the Programmatic Review web forms had closed shortly after midnight last night, but decided to email my comments to John Womersley anyway, while pointing out that in the common parlance, “ends on date X” is taken to mean “up to and inclusive of date X”. He emailed back to say that the folks who set up the web forms had misunderstood and the deadline was indeed the end of today. If the forms aren’t working I’d suggest mailing your comments straight to him if you haven’t done so already (took me a while to find his email address and I’m not sure about policy about posting email addresses here, so it’s of the form

  14. andyxl says:

    Rob – I seemed to be getting email this morning, but suspiciously quite this afternoon .. will try my BT account … thanks for the tip ..

  15. andyxl says:

    just checked again and things now seem to be getting through ROE ok…

  16. Kav says:

    I feel sorry for Prof. Womersley (no snark at all) since I imagine he has been inundated with complaining emails today and I think the current cock-up with the web-form is just that, a cock-up.

    He asked the web team to make sure it closed at 23:59 tonight and for some reason that failed to occur. And of course it is compounded by being on a bank holiday so I bet there was no one available to reverse the on-line situation.

    I have seen very courteous emails from Prof. Womersley ensuring that comments emailed to him before the real dead-line would be looked at.

  17. Phil Uttley says:

    Kav, I agree, he will have had to put up with a few angry emails although this is a genuine mistake! I thought there was some ambiguity with the date, especially because in a more recent statement released by STFC he said that the panels would ‘start work on the 21st’ (very sterling of them to work on a holiday!), so I was worried I’d missed the boat, but he replied very quickly and I appreciate it.

  18. andyxl says:

    Coo. Peace breaking out all round. I have now had a courteous reply from John Womersley and confirmation of receipt. The ROE email problem really didn’t help ! Time to watch telly and veg out I think….

  19. Rob Ivison says:

    All agreed – a unfortunate mistake which had several folk frothing at the mouth this morning, but one John Womersley seems to have gone to some trouble to remedy. I called almost every number in the STFC phonebook today: no-one answered, but let the institute with more than half-a-dozen folk at their desks today throw the first stone…

  20. Watcher says:

    Well it is, or was Good Friday. Given the crap thrown at STFC recently did you really expect an answer?

  21. Tom says:

    I can only hope that the consultation process is opened up again, at least for a few days after easter. Whether this is a genuine mistake or not doesn’t really matter, I know that some feedback from sites outside the UK wasn’t submitted via the website due to the premature closure. I don’t know if that feedback got submitted via email or not because it’s impossible to tell if they knew about the alternative method or just gave up once the site told them the consultation process was closed. Sorry, Andy, but not everyone reads this blog although they should!

    Or Paul Crowther’s site.

    No matter, this can’t help but reduce even further the lack of confidence in the STFC and the programmatic review. Anyone know any good bio-physics departments or stock brokers who are looking to retrain a 40-yr old astronomer?

  22. Tom says:

    PS. I’ll count the Moon if it pays well.

  23. Rob Ivison says:

    Watcher: that was my point – though i’m rarely given to biblical references, admittedly.

  24. Tom says:

    For those who got caught out by the premature closure of the STFC comments form and would still like to contribute to anything related to UKIRT, UKIDSS etc., see:

    Rob – this is hearsay but I’m told that Polaris House is closed over the Easter holidays. I mean really closed as in no one could get in even if they wanted to. I’m sure that doesn’t extend to internet access, but would help explain why no-one answered your calls. Frustrating or what?

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