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OSTI’s Committee of Visitors, An Update


OSTI’s Committee of Visitors, An Update

"The unexamined life is not worth living."  So says Plato's Socrates in the Apology.   His self-examination led to extreme humility (or to an extreme irony) when Socrates confessed to his accusers that the only knowledge he had was knowledge of his own ignorance.  No one we know of came away from a Socratic cross-examination in one piece, but they would at least have known their own limits.  And in knowing their limits, or their ignorance, they would somehow be better.

That's really the reason we open ourselves up to honest reviews of our own performance, or open our programs up to honest review by outsiders.  Now there are two ways to go about such reviews.  One is to gather your amen corner around you and have them tell you how great you are and what progress you are making and how important you are, etc. etc.  You can then announce to the world that you are a smashing success.  The other way is to gather serious, knowledgeable, and thoughtful people and let them ask hard questions; ask them to put you through a Socratic dialogue.  You'll almost always discover that there is room for improvement, if you choose the latter course. 

OSTI chose the latter course when it had a Committee of Visitors (CoV) review its programs.  A previous CoV report some years ago had proved helpful.  I felt it was time for another review. 

After meeting with OSTI staff for a full two days, the committee provided us with 10 individual reports.  There was praise for the enthusiasm, professionalism and entrepreneurial spirits of the OSTI staff.  And although there were certainly questions and criticisms, no one felt these took away from the outstanding work the staff was doing.

A summary of the review is as follows:

Taken as a whole, the ten reviews shared a consistent message:  OSTI needs to grapple with and resolve the balance between its mission to provide ready access to DOE R&D results and its more entrepreneurial mission...

Related Topics: CoV, Digitize Legacy Collection, DOE STI, metrics, Scientific and Technical Information Program Website