Emails received from the new Project Officer Manuela Speiser after submission of the M16 checkpoint documents

Email 1, 23rd July: "RE: APARSEN checkpoint review response"

Dear Mr Bicarrequi, dear Mr Lambert,

I herewith acknowledge receipt of your letter and the three documents (our reference Ares2012/891915).

Thank you for all the efforts made to respond to the review recommendations and to explain possible misunderstandings. The Year 2+ plan will be helpful for the revision of the Description of Work.

I will read all documents carefully in the next days and send a more detailed reply.

I approve of the suggestion of either to replace Philips and Microsoft with one or two other industrial partners or to redistribute the resources allocated to them among the existing partners, although two subsequent amendments are not an efficient way to handle this. However, a withdrawal requires some preparatory work which can be done while you are looking for candidates to replace them.

The supporting documents to provide are:

  • Letters from the withdrawing partners to the coordinator notifying their wish to terminate their participation as of a specified date;
  • A report on the work performed by the partners up to the date of termination;
  • Final signed and dated cost statements;
  • Confirmation from the Coordinator of the repayment by of all unused pre-financing.

Kind regards, Manuela Speiser

Email 2, 25th July: "APARSEN: status of deliverables July 2012"

Dear Simon,

I'm slowly working myself through the APARSEN documents – slowly, because it's a complex matter and because I'm currently very busy with other things.

One issue we need to work out, is the status of deliverables, since this is related to the pending payment. (The others are the annual report and the revision of the Description of Work.) I'd like to start with the deliverables.

To my knowledge the situation today is the following:

1) Accepted:
D51.1 Project Quality Plan
D51.2 Project Risk Register
D52.1 Project Web Site
D22.1 PI system framework
D24.1 Report on authenticity and plan for interoperable authenticity evaluation system
D24.2 Implementation and testing of an authenticity protocol on a specific domain
D33.1 Final report on peer review and 3rd party certification of repositories
D41.1 Workshops planning and summary report

Interim versions of
D11.1 Comparison of research programmes as a measure of integration
D11.2 Report on a Common Vision of Digital Preservation
D13.1 Report about standardisation activities

2) Missing:
D12.1 Register/map of research activities, positions available and placements

Interim versions of
D44.2 Annual report on communication activities
D46.1 International liaison communication report

3) Not yet formally accepted:
D44.1 Communication Plan
D43.1 Survey for the assessment of training material/ Assessment of digital curation requirements

ACTIONS

1) Missing deliverables

  • Please submit D44.1 and D43.1 by 1 September at the latest (note: we think she means D44.2 and D46.1 here )
    • NEED TO CHECK
  • I understand that WP12 is to be cancelled, and thus D12.1 probably is no longer needed. Is that correct?

2) D44.1 Communication Plan
I'm going to accept this, provided some minor edits. Before publishing it on the project website, please remove D45.1 from the cover page. The project website and scientific dissemination activities are missing from the table in section 4.6. Please correct this by 1 September at the latest.

3) D43.1 Training material survey

As regards recent initiatives, it has taken me only a few minutes to find ten (see attachment).

Given that APARSEN is conceived as a Europe wide network, this doesn't create a good image. Moreover, it will not be helpful for you when you are going to establish training locations or opportunities for co-hosting your trainings or to contribute to other initiatives.

Besides, I agree with the reviewers that the AIIM courses should be counted as one initiative and that this falsifies the statistics.

Therefore, I will not accept this deliverable and request a re-submission in time for the second review, adding at least 40 initiatives in non English speaking countries.

  • URGENTLY NEED INPUTS FROM ALL COUNTRIES IN APARSEN
This version should also present revised conclusions: Missing sentence in first paragraph, second paragraph to be deleted. Third paragraph: How are you making sure that the APARSEN courses fit within the established educational framework? Please add the training planning for Year 3 in the annex.

4) General

  • Add a page "public results" to the project web site with short descriptions and PDF files of all accepted deliverables with dissemination status "public". This should be in place by 1 September.
  • Before publishing any deliverables, remove the IST logo from the cover pages. This programme ended in 2006. Please do not use it any more. Please also remove the address of the Project Officer, including for future deliverables. By the way, please see e-mail signature below for my address for any correspondence.
    • NEED TO REGENERATE THE PDFs

As mentioned, this was a summary on deliverables. I'll get back to you in a few days for the other issues.

In the meantime, best regards
Manuela

Email 3, 27th July: "APARSEN: Year 1 periodic report"

Dear Simon,

In the meantime, I've looked at the periodic report.

First, three practical issues:

  • I notice that you've been sent a scanned version of the reporting template on 31 May, which might be of limited use. Please find attached a Word version from which you can copy more easily the missing tables 3.3, 3.4 and 3.5 (all on page 9 of the template).
  • In the NEF tool is a version of the text including the "M12+" additions, but dated 15 January 2012. Thus I assume it's not identical with the one you sent me by e-mail last week. Please replace the PDF files where relevant before closing the NEF session.
  • Finally, I would suggest that you remove the year 2 plan from the periodic report, for two reasons: It is not part of the template and you should not have been asked to add it there. Besides, more importantly, it should not be linked to the pending payment of the funding for Year 1. The payment can only be executed after my approval of the report and all of its parts. As regards the year 2 plan, there are some issues that need further discussion and I don't wish those to block the approval of the report and thus the payment.

Second, my comments on the report (version dated 19 July) plus "Use of resources" in NEF (PDF created today):

  • Page 2: The report is to be signed by the coordinator (see template)
  • Page 3: Please remove the IST logo
  • Page 5: Please delete this page as it is redundant
  • Progress by Work Packages:
    • WP 12 (start date in M12) is missing
    • For WP 16 no "progress and achievements" and no efforts are reported. Which were the activities during the 5 months from M8 to M12?
      • None
    • WPs 21, 23, 34 and 36 should have started in November 2011, i.e. two months before the end of the reporting period. The efforts reported here, although minimal, don't seem to be justified since no activities are being reported.
      • WP21 reported 0.27PM for SBA i.e. about 5 person days
    • WP 45: Please explain the reference to "critical objectives", since there aren't any objectives for WP45 in the DoW. For example, it is not part of this WP to establish the External Advisory Committee. (Actually, no task in the DoW is dedicated to this, presumably because it should have been set up already at the start of the project.)
  • Use of resources: In the column "explanation", please follow for all partners the instructions for table 3.1 in the template as requested in our message of 31 May. This means:
In the "Personnel costs" row, the number of staff and the staff categories are partially missing (e.g. partner 1). Please provide a summary as for partner 5. For travel costs, it is not always indicated how many persons travelled, where to, and how long. Please see partner 3 as a good example. Specifically to partner 12: Can you please remind me (and mention in the explanations) what the "consulting meeting" in Luxembourg was about and who issued the invitation?

Thank you and kind regards,
Manuela

Email 4, 31st July: "APARSEN: Year 2 plan and update of Description of Work"

Dear Simon,

Here is, if I'm not wrong, the last pending reply from my side. This is on your plans for the future of the project.

Overall, the new plan for Year 2 and beyond is very good and can definetly improve the feasibility and performance of the project. Particularly, the overview at the "network" and "streams" levels is well thought through. I also approve of the intended "rationalisation of efforts". Thus, the plan addresses the two main problems in the current Description of Work: the lack of clear objectives and the inefficient use of resources.

Please find below some more detailed comments, including for the revision of the Description of Work. This has been quite difficult since I had to integrate a lot of dispersed information - I wonder how you manage to keep an overview here? Therefore, please don't consider this as a complete list. I'm almost sure that I missed some issues which I will find only later, when you send me a draft of the revised DoW. Part of the comments refers to the project website.

Finally, despite our decision in June not to suspend the funding, I am sorry to inform you that you are currently in a situation that constitutes a multiple breach of contract:

  • under-performance overall (missing deliverables, no activities reported in several work packages)
  • non-performance of two partners
  • delay in reporting (the annual report was due 60 days after the end of the first period, i.e. on 1 March)

We have to take this seriously and remedy the situation as fast as possible. However, I am well aware that this is difficult in the middle of the summer and that it means a considerable workload for you. I thus invite you to suggest by 27th August a reasonable schedule for all actions required, based upon which we will take any further decisions. I should perhaps also point you to the possibility that the consortium can request a suspension in the case that you need some "free" time to solve all issues before continuing the work.

This was my last e-mail for the time being – promised! I hope you will find the time to go through all this after your return and I'm looking forward to hearing from you then. If there is anything unclear, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll be mostly in the office until 7 September.

Best wishes,
Manuela

A) CONCEPT / DESIGN OF THE PROJECT

(1)
Virtual Centre of Excellence. Compared to the Description of Work, the concept of the VCoE and the planning for how to implement it have made substantial progress during the production of D11.1. In the light of this, WP11 in the DoW should be completely re-drafted. D.11.2 seems to have a different scope in the Year 2 plan than in the DoW: the title and description should be adapted.

  • We were asked to emphasise VCoE - we can change the name to Common Vision of research and VCoE
(2)
Focus areas of work in Year 2 & 3: The plan identifies two areas. The first is mainly resting on work that is already finished ("Trust"). Please make sure that the sustainability and usability topics equally receive due attention.

(3)
"Streams of activity": The description of the streams is much clearer in the Year 2 plan than in the original Description of Work. Please make use of the new definitions when revising the DoW. Some observations/questions:

  • The design of the exchange programme is referred to as one of the achievements within Stream 1. Your paper "Response to Month 16 checkpoint review" suggests a different interpretation.
  • Stream 2 is about genuine research which seems to contradict the statement in your letter from 18 July, explaining that APARSEN "does not envision to perform or fund R&D"
    • R&D classification does not mean we are doing in depth research .
  • Both Stream 1 and 4 include engaging with initiatives outside APARSEN. This should be designed as a cross-cutting activity rather than being translated into independent tasks in different work packages. Currently, there is no link between the "common vision process" and the outreach activities in WPs 44-46. As regards interactions with other EU projects, could those be extended to new projects starting this winter?
    • Separation of Streams 1 and 4 was driven by the structure demanded by the NoE bid template

B) RESOURCES

(4)
Additional industry partners: The detailed plan per WP shows that the loss of Philips and Microsoft can in most cases be compensated by other partners. The only exception seems to be WP 31 where the leaving partners should have contributed 4 PMs. Please consider that it might not be easy to find additional partners ready to take on such a marginal role and that this might unnecessarily increase the complexity of integration and project management. Besides, there could be other partners in the existing consortium with expertise in DRM. Alternatively, a small sub-contract could be an option, depending on what exactly is meant to be done in this work package (looks very much like a survey).

(5)
I understand that it is not intended to change the budget allocation to the individual partners. As the annual report shows, there are some partners that have considerably underspent up to now (e.g. CERN, FTK, CSC…), while others have consumed already one third or more of the originally planned effort (FORTH, TESSELLA, SBA). This might request shifting some budget between partners, depending on their future tasks.

(6)
You suggest increasing the effort allocated to management. I agree that the current allocation of 11PMs over 4 years is unrealistic for a project of this scale. Please note however the definition of "management" in articles II.2 and II.16 of the model grant agreement when revising the budget and efforts tables. "Technical coordination" is to be budgeted as part of the RTD activities with a funding rate of 60%, not under "consortium management".

(7)
As regards the plan to transfer some resources from personnel to travel costs for face-to-face meetings, I am not convinced of the need to do this. With less work packages and less partners and a more efficient attribution of tasks, it might not be necessary to hold more face-to-face meetings, particularly since you seem to have an efficient system for virtual meetings in place.

(8)
Travel costs for speakers from outside the consortium: The plan to allocate 15.000 euro to fund travels of speakers in WP 41 requires my approval. Can you please explain how many speakers you are aiming at, what their profile would be, where they should come from (geographically speaking) and why they could not be reimbursed by their own organisations? The APARSEN budget should be spent on its core tasks.

C) REVISION OF ANNEX 1, DESCRIPTION OF WORK

(9)
Consistency: Please check the Year 2 plan and the DoW for inconsistencies. Example WP 16: DoW - "This workpackage creates … a repository of preservation-related software" / Year 2 plan – "As envisaged, we will not create a new software repository".

  • But in the main text of the DoW for WP16 we say We believe that we will not need to implement new repository software, although some customisation may be necessary. A repository will be adopted so that partners can deposit software or references to software.

(10)
Deliverables list (WT2): Please remove the cancelled deliverables and rename D44.1 to "Communications Plan". Avoid scheduling deliverables too close to annual reviews or shortly afterwards (not in M25-26, M37-38).

  • Or move reviews

(11)
Work packages (WT3): Please define for each work package tangible outcomes and indicators for progress and success. Add the start and end months and leading partner for each task. Avoid spreading the work over too many work packages and over too many partners with efforts that are too small for any meaningful contribution. The minimum should be 4-6PMs per partner over the 4 years of the project. The necessary integration between WPs will happen at the level of topics or streams or through the cross-cutting WPs if well organised by the project management. Remove lengthy introductions (e.g. WP14). Where you consider it necessary to provide background information, this should find it's place in Part B. Avoid vague, non-committal statements such as "we believe", "a starting point can be", "we could" etc. instead of describing concrete activities. WPs that will be discontinued (WP12, WP14, others?) can be simply deleted if no costs have incurred up to now. Otherwise, please add at the top of the description "discontinued after month x". The work on the project website should be part of WP 44, not of WP52, and be an explicit task (part of which could be the newsletter).

(12)
Milestones (WT4): Please describe the milestones in the "comment" column of table WT4. What is going to be achieved and how will you know that it has been achieved? Consider moving MS7 forward to month 36.

(13)
Reviews (WT5): The number of projects in my portfolio leaves me limited time for travelling, particularly in February/March. Therefore, at least one more meeting has to take place in Luxembourg.

(14)
Part B: Please update the Gantt Chart, remove the two leaving partners and, where relevant, update the key personnel.

D) PROJECT WEBSITE

(15)
The plan mentions that the website would be improved which is very positive. It is a pity that there is no APARSEN project website and that the distinctive branding has been replaced by a design that associates the project to one single partner of the grant agreement. But as D52.1 has been accepted in June, I'm not going to open this discussion again. Nonetheless, there are a few things that I assume could be easily changed and would improve the web presence of APARSEN.

  • APA home page: In order to get information about the project, visitors have to scroll down to the very end of the page. The "About APARSEN" button should be more prominently placed.
    • The "About APARSEN" is on the top line!
  • Clicking on one of the logos in the top banner doesn't make any difference. A click on the APARSEN logo should lead to a page about APARSEN.
  • Returning to "home" from one of the APARSEN sub-pages (e.g. "research topics") leads to the APA home page and not to the first page dedicated to APARSEN. The "Home" button should thus be removed on all APARSEN pages (you can still get to APA by clicking on the logo in the banner).
  • Sub-pages of "research topics": It is not user friendly to have one page for each of the WPs in the Description of Work. If I wanted to know more about the work in the Sustainability area, I would have to open five pages instead of getting an overview on one single page. Besides, the numbering of work packages and tasks is not self-explaining (looks as if some were missing) and doesn't have any added value for a visitor of the web site.
    • Part of the transition to VCoE - the deliverables can also appear in the broader pages
  • There is no information on on-going work or about (intermediate) results.
  • Please see also my request to add a page with public deliverables in my message from 25 July.

-- SimonLambert - 2012-08-07

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Topic revision: r2 - 2012-08-09 - DavidGiaretta
 
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