Debriefing from a successful Formal Project Review by the EU Commission

On April 26th, OpenDreamKit underwent its first formal review by the European Commission. We presented the achievements of the first 18 months of the project, including 30 deliverables (reports, slides). Overall, the feedback was very positive, with language such as “enthusiast”, “brilliant”, “amazing job”, or “things have come along fantastically”. We made a strong point in our reports and presentations that a vast majority of what’s happening comes from the ecosystem we support. All we do is exploit the special resources the EU is entrusting us to knock down some tough hurdles that are preventing the ball to roll. Kudos to our communities!

Debriefing notes I sent to the OpenDreamKit participants

About twenty of us were in Brussels early this week for the OpenDreamKit Month 18 formal review. After two days of intensive preparation, we presented our work on Wednesday to our project officer and reviewers.

There are a few points that we need to think about (not unexpected). But otherwise the hard work we all put since the beginning of the project came out as quite a show. The panel gave very constructive feedback and were overall really happy. They appreciate our approach, our work, our spirit.

Now is the time to enjoy that appreciation and build on that energy to do even better in the coming years. Pass this on to our communities!

Speaking of funding: the reviewers made a strong point that we bear a big responsibility: apparently mathematics does not have a good press in the high spheres these days. We were very lucky, as a math project, to be funded; it’s really because they appreciated so much the strength of the proposal and our “clever and creative interpretation of the call” that we made it through. “No other math project is being funded” (this quote obviously does not apply to ERCs; the scope is plausibly that of H2020 projects).

They now need strong ammunition to make sure that future calls leave room for mathematics. So not only do we have to succeed because we care so much about our aims (and should investigate followups to pursue them further), but also for the sake of other projects elsewhere in mathematics. We also need to proactively explain and highlight to a wider audience what we do in collaboration with our communities. There is very good stuff going on, let it be seen.

Some further thoughts needs to be put in how to achieve that. For now, the take home message is simple: If you witness something nice happening, from a technical achievement with a wow factor to a thought provoking anecdote, write a blog post about it. See the instructions, or even just send a brief draft text by e-mail to Mike Croucher with me in CC.

Let me conclude by thanking the whole band that came to Brussels (with a special nod to the presenters on which we dumped the most delicate presentations). I was frustrated as you all were spending all this time together without tackling what we all really care most. However we built on our image in the Commission, and used the occasion to strengthen our group around a joint vision. This is a worthwhile long term investment.

Thank you everybody for all the enthusiastic, dedicated and beautiful work. It’s an honor and a pleasure to be working with such a team.

Remember: pass it on to those supporting you and to your communities.

Cheers, Nicolas

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