|Volume 1: No. 15|
The Monash position has been withdrawn; no explanation was published.
I said last week that MIT professors would typically be excluded from PYI panels for political reasons. This is more-or- less true for all programs aimed at disadvantaged groups, and for proposals from such individuals, but there is a stronger factor in the case of PYI. NSF is very, very careful about conflict of interest. A professor would not be allowed to comment on any proposal involving his or her school or past advisees -- including students at the school, from the school, or with letters of reference from faculty there. In fact, the professor would have to leave the room whenever such a proposal is discussed. The panel process would be difficult if reviewers from top research schools were invited, so program officers avoid such recruitment unless a specific professor's expertise is absolutely essential. (Even then, the critique might be obtained by mail rather than in panel.) Past PYI winners may be invited to the panel, but they would likely be from the "lesser" schools and under-represented minority groups. If PYI is a beauty contest that favors the top seven schools, it is at least not a positive-feedback loop.
Incidentally, there is very little difference between a bureaucracy and an expert system. If you had to allow for all the factors in complex political situations, your code would be as complex as NSF's rules. NSF's policy manuals aren't terribly hard to understand if you have a week or so to study them. And, interestingly, every rule specifies who has the authority to make an exception.