Sunday, 20 May 2007

World Innovation Foundation-PS

In my post below on this topic I did not mention, because I did not know, that a post by Zeth Green to our local Linux User Group commenting on my earlier post had come to the attention of David Hill of WIF, who had posted a reply. After submitting my update I found the correspondence. So I thought I should add the relevant links here:

World Innovation Foundation

I wrote on 19th April 2007 in three-short-notes
2. Does anyone know anything about 'The World Innovation Foundation' apart from the information provided on their web site and on the sites of the very many scientists who announce that they have been elected members or fellows of WIF? Their aims seem to be laudable, but I would like independent evidence of what they actually do.
They had invited me to be a member in 2004, and I accepted though I was somewhat mystified partly because I could not get clear evidence that WIF actually did anything, and partly because I could not understand why they had selected me. I then forgot about it. Later I stumbled across a controversy in wikipedia as to whether WIF ever did anything that was reported anywhere off its own web site.

A little research left me puzzled (e.g. about whether Glenn Seaborg really had founded WIF in 1992 as some news articles claimed), so I mentioned the puzzle on my web site asking whether WIF was a "glorious hoax", expecting that eventually someone with real evidence would respond. I then forgot about it.

Later, the chief executive of WIF responded, angrily claiming that I was no longer a Fellow and making various demands. Since threatening me never achieves anything I invited him to calm down, and did some investigating of my own.
I have found that the reports of Glenn Seaborg founding WIF in 1992 were not published by WIF itself but by press offices of organisations whose members had been selected by WIF. Several press notices conflated two facts:
  1. WIF was originally founded as The Institute of National Economic Enrichment and Development (INEED) in 1992
  2. Glen Seaborg agreed to be the 'founding president' in 1996 and suggested the new name at that time. He died not long after that, which is presumably why the information is not on his web site.
I have also found that some WIF members have indeed done things for WIF, e.g. signing letters to Bush and Blair, or writing articles to go on the WIF Web site.

So the organisation is real and attempts to do things, including influencing governments. But it does not do so publicly, and that makes it very easy for governments to ignore its advice. I have no idea whether it really can achieve its goals, including setting up the multi-billion dollar research centre described on its web site.

I conclude that it is well meaning and that many would endorse the goals on its web site. But I fear that its influence will never match the impressive list of names of its fellows and members (e.g. large numbers of Nobel Prize winners) because most of what it does is done quietly, and done only by a tiny subset. All the rest are happy to announce that they have been chosen to be members or fellows and then forget about it.

Sad in a way.