[foundation-board] Update on OpenTrials

Pavel Richter pavel.richter at okfn.org
Sat Apr 1 08:28:07 UTC 2017

Hi Tim,

the decisions that let to these events were made only very recently -
namely in preparation for a meeting that Chris and I had with Ben Goldacre
on the 24th of March.

I did speak about the general risk around OpenTrials at the last board
meeting. But it wasn't clear that the meeting with Ben Goldacre would
happen, and what we discussed during that meeting.

All three contractors were aware that our discussions around phase II of
OpenTrials were difficult, we kept the team informed about this at all
times. And all three are contractors, so their day rate is calculated in a
way that reflects the possibility of such shifts in project scopes. In
other words, they get payed more then staff members, because there is
always a possibility that we have to let them go if projects change. And
all three have 30 days notice periods in their contracts, which we of
course honor.

We discussed all this with all three contractors, and even so they would
have liked to continue to work on OpenTrials, they do understand the
realities. And we will hire each of them again if the situation allows.

Thank you for raising your concerns, I think we need to be very honest and
frank about the possibilities and the risks involved with working for an
organisation such as ours. We are very much dependent on project grants, we
often work with partners who have their own priorities (and sometimes,
their own egos, too), and we do not have the means to keep people "on the
bench" for a longer period of time, to find different work for them. We are
designing our contracts around these realities.
Having said that, of course there are lessons to be learned from all this.
We will have a post mortem on what happened here, what mistakes were made
by us, and how we can do better in the future. I will update the board
about this during the next regular Board meeting.



On 29 March 2017 at 12:41, Tim Hubbard <timjph at gmail.com> wrote:

> Dear Pavel,
> Thanks for the email.
> I’m a bit surprised that 3 staff have to leave with only 4 weeks notice.
> Did they realise they were at risk?  This seems very short notice.  I don’t
> think this was raised as a risk at the last board.
> Best wishes,
> Tim
> > On 29 Mar 2017, at 09:52, Pavel Richter <pavel.richter at okfn.org> wrote:
> >
> > Dear Board,
> >
> > I just shared the following update about OpenTrials with the whole team:
> >
> > Dear all,
> >
> > Let me share some recent developments around OpenTrials with you:
> > While we are preparing for phase II of OpenTrials, we expect several
> changes happening to the project. The biggest one is that we are following
> Ben Goldacre's suggestion and move all technical development and design
> work to a dedicated team, staffed and run by the University of Oxford. Ben
> made it clear that for phase II he prefers to have the technical team sit
> alongside the domain expertise team in Oxford.
> > This is not what we planned for; we were hoping to use the next three
> months (and some additional funding from the Arnold Foundation) to continue
> work on phase I of OpenTrials, as well as figuring out the potential for a
> better partnership with Oxford. However, this did not work out, the Arnold
> Foundation made it clear that we can not use the available funds for this.
> >
> > We do not agree with the assessment of Ben that the development work is
> better done at the University of Oxford. We do believe that phase I has
> proven that the OKI tech team is very much capable of delivering excellent
> work, and that the main reason for some problems in phase I was the lack of
> dedicated resources in Oxford.
> >
> > However, a partnership works only when both parties believe in it. So we
> decided to go along with Ben's suggestion to concentrate tech and design
> work in Oxford (this does not mean that there will be no technical work be
> done by OKI, but that our involvement will be reduced significantly).
> >
> > So the  immediate consequence of this is that we will have to reduce the
> OpenTrials team, which means that Georgiana, Victor and Ben Meghreblian
> will leave OKI within the next 4 weeks. All three did exceptional work on
> OpenTrials, and we hope to get them on board again for other projects.
> >
> > As another consequence of this development, we will shift our focus on
> the OpenTrials project, namely to a greater policy role in the project,
> bringing the solution to the attention of Civil Society Organisations and
> growing the user base of OpenTrials beyond the academic arena that Oxford
> has covered. We will present OpenTrials to the broader open knowledge
> community and promote activities to to make good use of the OpenTrials
> data, to improve people's lives.
> > Chris will be reaching out to project and product managers across OKI to
> identify opportunities and incorporate these changes in the plan for phase
> II.
> >
> > We (Chris and me, supported by Paul) will be working on a proposal that
> will allow OKI to be involved with phase II of OpenTrials. The strategic
> importance of this project is not measured by the size of our involvement,
> but by the potential impact OpenTrials can have on people's lives, and our
> impact as an organisation on the project. The last months of OpenTrials
> were not easy ones. Our relationship with Ben Goldacre is not without
> challenges. We do believe that there is a fruitful involvement of and a
> strategic role for OKI in the future of OpenTrials, if OKI and the
> University of Oxford can agree on a framework of governance and on common
> goals and interests for phase II.  This is what we are working on for the
> next several weeks.
> >
> > I share this with you in this length, because it is important that we
> not only share our successes with each other, but also failures and
> developments such as this.
> >
> > --
> > Kind regards
> >
> > Pavel Richter
> > CEO
> > Open Knowledge International
> > _______________________________________________
> > foundation-board mailing list
> > foundation-board at lists.okfn.org
> > https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-board
> > Unsubscribe: https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/foundation-board
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Tim Hubbard
> timjph at gmail.com @timjph
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> foundation-board mailing list
> foundation-board at lists.okfn.org
> https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/foundation-board
> Unsubscribe: https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/foundation-board

Kind regards

Pavel Richter
Open Knowledge International
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.okfn.org/mailman/private/foundation-board/attachments/20170401/a0edb6ee/attachment.html>

More information about the foundation-board mailing list