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MSP LNC 2009

Joseph Merlino's Reflection

I completely concur with Susana Navarro's comments about and regard for the authors of the LNC poster sessions. I would only add these thoughts.

If the truth be told, had it not been for MSPnet's Brian Drayton asking me to be a discussant, I most likely would not have wandered very far into the Poster Hall. This would have been my loss. In each and every case where I carefully read, reflected upon, and wrote about a poster, it has proven valuable.

I am now in my 6th year of a 2003 cohort Targeted MSP, which for me was a full time job for five years.  If I was critical in my Poster Hall comments, and, at times, I was, I was also humbled in reading them. It was evident to me how much better my MSP could have been. In the beginning of our MSP, our team worked on constructing a "toolbox" of teacher interventions that we thought could lead to students taking more challenging courses. What I found in the poster hall was a virtual hardware store.

I understand why there are not more postings in the "Hall," why Susana's, Brian's and my comments comprised the bulk of the posts. The PI and Co-PIs of on-going MSPs are in the throes of it. They have all they can do to just manage and hold together their projects. They must concentrate first on implementing with fidelity what they already have planned and committed to do. They have little free time and what time they have they need to spend elsewhere. The annual reports beckon. What they can pick up from the LNC conferences, or from personal networking, they put to use with that which is already at hand. It is difficult to add to one's existing MSP new dimensions from other projects, however interesting and useful they may seem. Ironically, the same press for time, the same 'make it practical for what I am already doing,' is what they confront when working with teachers and school administrators.

And, therein lay the dilemma of knowledge management and dissemination, which this Virtual Poster Hall is a part of. Having lived though an MSP to know better the value of other MSPs, their theories of action, their promise and shortfalls, and now in my 6th year finally having the daylight to read and reflect on what they have wrought, I am at the end of my MSP. How do I use such knowledge?  

I am not alone. We now have several cohorts of retiring MSPs, in all their splendid and bright programmatic and structural diversity, with all the breadth of their accumulated experiences, wisdom and data.  As a country, how do we make the best use of this treasure? I leave this question as a challenge to our respected NSF program officers, who have been true friends and colleagues. I have some ideas. You may, too.