A deep and honest view on the Euclid Consortium Information and Communication Management
Dida Markovic (lead of the EC information and communication management group), May 2023
It was 2019 and I had just moved from the UK to the US to take up a position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Working for the US government required me to work on a clean, secure new machine. As far as my work on Euclid went, this meant two things: starting my telecons at 7 am (due to being 9 hours behind on Pacific Time), and finding all the portals and pages again: all new bookmarks, all new logins. I started collecting all the URLs, logins and idiosyncrasies in one document. And as that document grew and grew, I started getting frustrated and vented to my project boss. At the same time, the world got hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and we all worked remotely. Everyone in the EC started relying on our pages and portals even more, in order to keep working together, to keep building Euclid, and preparing for data analysis. Because my project boss happens to sit on the Euclid Consortium Board (ECB), he asked me to prepare a presentation about the Euclid pages and portals for the ECB, because they were now more important than ever for the success and the timely execution of the mission. So I got up at 6 am on the 22nd of April 2020 and talked to the board (EC members can find my original slides on the Redmine).
I pointed out that there has been an extraordinary proliferation of sources of information in EC, many of which were designed to be temporary, many were not official, and there have been little to no guidelines provided on how to use them to store and retrieve information. We have: many wikis (Redmine, Cosmos…), mailing list services (Cosmos, Tracking Portal, Projects Portal, local services…), websites (institutional, EC-level, ESA-level…), portals (Publications, Projects, Tracking…), document, code and data servers (Eclipse, Livelink, Gitlab, Euclid Archive, Mission database…), Slack workspaces (I found more than 32!), and more. I also convinced them that the situation was particularly challenging and potentially harmful for early-career & minority members, as well as making us vulnerable to miscommunication and knowledge getting lost from the EC as people leave.
As a result of my presentation, the ECB asked me to assemble a committee to “evaluate the multitude of websites, portals, email lists, and communications channels used within the EC” (EC members can see the full terms of reference here). The committee was to “provide the ECB with pragmatic recommendations for ways to simplify, consolidate, and streamline these channels and processes”. So in June 2020, Knud Jahnke, Keith Noddle, Will Percival, Audrey Le Reun, Sven De Rijcke and I had an e-kick-off as I called the kick-off meeting of the new EC Information Channels Committee (ECICC or “e-kick”). As part of this, my initial list of URLs, logins and idiosyncrasies became what you may have seen as the Euclid (Not-So-)Quick Start Guide available on the EC Redmine and soon on the new EC website. And by February 2021, we produced a 42 page document (EC members can find it on the Redmine) describing the situation and making a detailed set of recommendations. Some of the recommendations said that we should: have dedicated documentalists, not have 30+ Slack workspaces, have a full-time IT specialist supporting the EC, have automation and unification between all the portals and pages and so on and so forth. I presented the summary of our conclusions to the ECB (EC members, here are the slides).
At the conclusion of the ECICIC, the ECB decided to create another committee to implement the recommendations described in the report. I was relieved that I would be able to reclaim my time for science, and someone more qualified would take over. Or so I thought. So, we defined the charge for this new implementation committee, or “e-kick-kick” (EC Information Channels Implementation Committee: ECICIC) and we assembled a new, larger committee full of portal admins and decision makers. And in July 2021, somehow I was co-chairing the “e-kick-kick-off” (slides for EC members) with Francis Bernardeau, the deputy ECL, with my science time taking the back seat again.
As the ECICIC, we started to implement and plan some major changes. We started cleaning up the information on the Redmine, we started looking for someone to buy Slack for the EC (or at least a license as we cannot afford the whole company), we started pushing to get more support and development for the Projects Portal, more documentation to the Redmine, and so on. Our final task at the end of the year, in summer 2022, was to assemble a new ECCOM group. This group would have many subgroups, covering external communication, as well as the internal information and communication management. The group lead would be a communications specialist and the deputy would be an EC scientist. But things didn’t work out as planned. We did not receive a very enthusiastic response from those that could volunteer time and importantly, from those that were in a position to fund the plan. We had to find a backup solution. We split the ECCOM into two groups. Audrey Le Reun, an actual science communication expert now leads the EC Education and Public Outreach team.
On the other hand, the group handling the EC Information and Communication Management (ECICOM) was spun up this spring. This team will remain throughout the rest of the Euclid mission, although I expect people will come and go. In fact, it’s a fantastic team of driven people, who have made an enormous difference even in a few short months. We have Jennifer Pollack, who has spearheaded the acquisition of a single professional Slack workspace that will open up for all any day now, migrating all the existing workspaces into one “Euclid Consortium” Slack workspace. Then there is Jascha Schewtschenko, who has been leading the new ECOsystem team of portal and page managers, rewriting portal codes from scratch and creating credential databases that will soon significantly reduce the number of passwords we have to write down in our little books. We have Knud Jahnke and Stefano Camera, who are leading the overhaul of our main website, our single point of entry (https://euclid-ec.org) – working on the interface between the ECICOM and the ECEPO. We also have Stefania Pandolfi and Guadalupe Cañas Herera at ESA, who are providing a crucial link with the team at ESA and pushing forward various tasks of the team, Jarle Brinchmann who has brought this Newsletter back to life, Bogna Kubik, Amandine Le Brun and Yuzheng Kang, who are creating a unified procedure for the events and meetings in the EC, and organising our upcoming launch parties, and many others who are crossing all important tasks from our seemingly infinitely complex tasks list (EC members can check out our Redmine issues: (EC members can check out our Redmine issues). So, this is the story of how the ECICOM group came to be. I am still the chair, but I call myself “interim”, because I still hope that someday, somehow, someone who knows what they are doing will take over… Well, I can hope.
Now please, go check out our Redmine page, and have an eye out on the Redmine home page for News items and general emails that we send from the Projects Portal mailing list.
My dream is that some day, all you will have to remember is that you are a member of the Euclid Consortium (https://letmegooglethat.com/?q=euclid+consortium&l=1), one username and one password, and you will be able to find all information about Euclid starting from there. Now finally, we are almost there!