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Thoughts on the nomcom process

2008-03-15 20:11:15

I spent the last five days listening to the debates on the nomcom 
candidate confirmation process and the proposals to fix the process.  As 
much as possible, I tried to stay away from the debates so I can 
carefully listen, understand and reflect.  It appears that opinions on 
the causes ranged from 'everyone messed up' to 'everyone did the right 
thing, under the circumstances.'

After listening to the many opinions, I further thought about the 
proceedings of the past 9 months and reflected on what went wrong. 
Next, I went back and reread various notes and emails.  Andrew, this 
year's nomcom adviser, sent an email to me on July 24, 2007, titled 
"Notes to next-year's chair" in which he said the following confirmation 

"I'll be happy to chat about the confirmation process well ahead of time 
so you know what to expect."

We had that conversation in Chicago, and I recall Andrew noting that 
there were difficulties in the confirmation process with the IAB, and 
that he'll help out when the time comes.  I recall noting that I will be 
extra careful in ensuring that we do all the due diligence in candidate 
selection and in preparation of testimony.  However, I stopped there; in 
retrospect I should have exhibited more common sense and curiosity and 
asked Andrew more questions.  But, I did not do that!  I guess I can 
think of many excuses, but after all, I accepted the position and 
clearly did not do a good job.  I can never explain how hard it is for 
me to say this, but I am sorry for my mistake.  I know I made at least 
one more mistake in running the process.

I think it is unfair to blame the entire nomcom in this case.  The 
volunteer voting members deserve the thanks and appreciation that the 
community at large showed them at the plenaries last week, but none of 
the blame.  Please direct any blame on the nomcom at me.  I accepted the 
position of chairing this nomcom and the mistake of not catching this 
issue early enough is mine.

So, what should we do now?  First, I don't believe what Harald has 
suggested is the right direction.  I believe that the IAB's 
interpretation of 3777 on the matter of the confirmation process sets a 
dangerous precedence whereby one of the confirming bodies could require 
that the nomcom provide (samples of) verbatim feedback.  One could 
interpret the same text that the IAB cites -- all information and any 
means acceptable to them -- as being in support of that requirement as 
well.  The community tends to express their lack of confidence in the 
process by not participating, for instance, not volunteering or not 
providing feedback.

So, what is the best direction?  I think a revision to 3777 is in fact 
needed.  There are at least three things to do:
1. Define the roles and responsibilities of the people and the bodies 
involved in the process, more clearly.
2. Define the expectations on the confidentiality of the information 
3. Specify the nature information sharing within the nomcom process.

Once we arrive at consensus conclusions on those, state those and revise 
3777 to delete text that is inconsistent with those conclusions.  Unlike 
other parts of our process, nomcoms are under hard time constraints and 
much of the work happens in secrecy.  We are already late for any 
revision to be useful for the next nomcom.

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