GMC RPIP-18 Conflict Of Interest - Community Feedback

In the conflict of interest section of RPIP-18:

Any GMC member who submits a grant application SHALL abstain from scoring, voting on, or participating in GMC discussions about any grants during the application period for which they are an applicant. They may participate in the ratifying snapshot vote. They may also score, vote, and participate in discussions in future rounds during which their grant is ongoing, provided they have not submitted an application during that round for any new grants.

GMC members are often highly active community participants who frequently apply for grants. This would be very debilitating to some of the most active members of the GMC from being able to contribute, which poses a risk to the GMC functioning efficiently.

Instead of completely excluding them, an alternative approach could be to disqualify them from participating in decisions related to projects that can be argued as being within their own industry or line of work. In such cases, an applicant should have the ability to challenge or nullify a committee member’s decision if they can present a convincing argument that their own work is similar.Or if we wanted to take this a step further, we could make specific categories that applications fall under such as: research, development feature, marketing, etc. Along with this solution, a GMC member shall repeatedly make it abundantly clear that they have a grant during that cycle.

The GMC is seeking feedback from the community on how to amend this issue (if at all)?

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Honestly? I’m fine with simply removing this entirely and bringing something back if there’s an issue.

IIRC (and it’s been a minute) the idea here is that we don’t want GMC members denying others so that they can get more of some scarce pie. Right now, we’re more good idea limited than resource limited, so I don’t think this is adding value. Definitely a worthwhile thing to figure out when we do hit scarcity tho.

Changed my mind. See my post below.

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I don’t know about this. I am sympathetic to the concern, but if the same people are routinely applying for grants and on the GMC, it seems something has gone wrong along the way. It’s not about if they can be trusted, but about appearances. However, I’m also not naive to the fact that it can be hard to find people to serve on committees who are not also from the same small group of active community members.

Maybe for any cycle where the funding requests are greater than the GMC budget for that cycle, they are restricted in participating, otherwise they are allowed.

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I agree with Val in this situation. The text should be removed entirely except for restricting the individual GMC from commenting on their own grant application.

If pDAO members feel this is an issue, we can certainly bring this up again after a few cycles.

I’m not sure why they’d have to abstain from voting on things unrelated to their own grants. It’s obvious that they’d have to recuse themselves from things related to the grant they’d be receiving themselves, but the only real way I see this becoming a concern is if there are multiple grants competing for the same “spot” (looking at you, dashboards) and they shoot down others to try to get their own grant through.

I want to say it would be quite apparent when that situation arises and I’d expect them to recuse from any grants related to / competing with their own, but I don’t think they should be banned from weighing in on things unrelated to their own grants. Same goes for bounties, though that’s another can of worms as right now I don’t think you can’t elect to apply for your own bounty submissions.

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Way back in the day I advocated for similar language to restrict voting in rounds where a GMC member had a grant, because I was anticipating an ideas rich but resource poor community. I was wrong about the latter; reserving judgement on the former.

Now, I favor removing this language. I think the best remedy for the appearance of conflict of interest is transparency (explaining how and why decisions were made); not being able to talk but still being able to vote makes transparency worse. Perhaps we just delineate ethical guidelines/expectations rather than prohibitions?

I agree with Dr Doofus that it looks really really bad if a large part of GMC funds are awarded to GMC members. I wonder if there’s some GMC health metric we can follow (eg, % of funds to GMC members each period) and decide what a reasonable level is?

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Hoping an outside perspective is useful and welcome here. Couple of points to make.

Firstly, recognizing that I have a conflict of interest given that I’m hoping to at some point propose some grants. As someone looking to do this, its not encouraging to find out that the committee responsible for administering grants also proposes and receives grants. Absent other factors, I’d choose to work under a grants program in which the committee was not permitted to do this.

Secondly, its worth explicitly highlighting the trade-off here. If this part of the RPIP was removed, the community would:

  • Potentially see a gain in (or maintain a level of, see below) efficiency and effectiveness of the grants program.
  • At a cost to some amount of legitmacy of the grants program.

Legitimacy is a tough thing to measure. It can also be hard to convince people of its importance until its gone. That said, this is a reasonable trade-off to make if efficiency and effectiveness have a high value in the short or medium term. One worry is if it becomes a general trend to dismiss conflict of interest rules. I don’t really buy into the slippery slope argument though, it’s totally possible to say: “We’re going to make this trade-off understanding the downsides, and judge future trade-offs of this sort on their own merits.”

Third point is perhaps a result of a mistaken assumption, and I would appreciate someone correcting me if that’s the case. Looking at the RPIP repository it appears RPIP-18 has been in-force for ~six months in its current form? If this is the case, is the GMC currently operating under those conflict of interest rules, or not? The post implies not with the phrase “This would be very debilitating…”. Could easily just be a typo or mistranslation though.

Being the person whose job it is to deal with incompatibilities between reality and ‘the rules’ as passed by a governance body truly sucks though. My sympathies there.

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I’m not sure why they’d have to abstain from voting on things unrelated to their own grants

I think the issue would come up where there are more grant requests than grant money. In that case, in theory, torpedoing other grants could make one’s own grant more likely to get funding.

I would not expect it to happen, so I don’t really care if this language is removed, but that is the logic.

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I looked at the January and April GMC rounds and checked which members should have been disqualified from voting according to the RPIP-18 section in question.
In January: Waqwaq, Ken, and object would have been excluded from voting, leaving 4 members to vote.
In April: Fornax and ShfRyn (edit: ShfRyn pointed out that I missed Ken) would have been excluded, leaving 7 6 members.

Would it really be so problematic to follow the RPIP? The GMC does more than just voting on grants and especially with talk of going away from the 3 month intervals, it appears this wouldn’t come up that often.

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Hi! Your opinion is very welcome here. Sadly, there is a strong overlap between the most active members of the community and those willing to work on the GMC. I can only speak for myself, but if I was ineligible to apply for grants as a GMC member, I would leave the GMC.

Legitimacy is crucial, and I don’t think any of the GMC members want to put that at risk. That’s why we’re having these discussions out in the open.

Related to your third point, the problem that we’re only coming up with this issue now is that the GMC members did not understand the scope of the language as it is written until late in the second round of grants (the third round just started this week).

Thanks haha! Being a GMC member is really hard.

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Would Joe have been able to vote because of his bounties? How would that impact things?

I only looked at grants and retroactive awards, because to me that seems like where a conflict of interest could occur: The GMC member is applying and potentially voting on giving themselves an award. I don’t see that conflict with bounties.

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Couple of things to clarify here:

  • Ken was also an applicant during the second period via Twitter Spaces through Jasper. This would remove 3/9 members.

  • Just to be clear - the GMC member is not allowed to vote on their own applications, we are trying to address the language that prohibits the GMC member from voting for ANY other awards that are submitted that period.

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@LongForWisdom this has been there since inception of the GMC (2022-09-18, RPIP-15). Keep in mind that GMC positions are volunteer positions staffed by active community members – it’s a pretty tough pill to go from volunteer to “paid negative money because you can’t apply for grants”.

@knoshua thanks for getting real world numbers. I find them convincing, and now think we should leave it as is. Now that we have 9 members, and especially on the monthly schedule, it seems easy enough to avoid having a single month contain new grants for more than 4 GMC members.

New stance: I still don’t think it’s super critical, but it seems there’s very low cost to having it there and it prevents any questions. So slight win to “as is” and that’s also easier :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thanks for the clarification, the change of # threw me.

I’m aware that its a volunteer position, and I agree that would be a bad outcome if people felt they needed to leave the committee over the issue. It definitely becomes difficult to retain active community members if you force them out of volunteer work they enjoy!

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