Two Pals, a Grant, and the NSF

An NSF Public Access advisor is raising eyebrows given his involvement with and promotion of a grant made to an old friend.

Martin Halbert, who has a PhD from the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts at Emory University, is the Science Advisor for Public Access at the National Science Foundation (NSF). He works inside the NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure (OAC).

In September 2023, Code for Science and Society (CSS), the parent of Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI), received a grant for $299,454 from the NSF OAC via its EArly-Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) grant mechanism. EAGER grants can’t be larger than $300,000, by definition.

Katherine Skinner of IOI is the individual listed as the Principal Investigator (PI). She uses an IOI email address ( Skinner joined IOI from Educopia — more on that and how she and Halbert intersected there below — in April 2023. The initial ~5,800-word NSF grant application was dated May 10, 2023.

Halbert has been involved with IOI for several years, predating his role at the NSF. On a page on the IOI site published first in 2020, Halbert is listed as a supporter of IOI from his days as Dean of Libraries at UNC Greensboro:

Halbert may also have had a hand in managing the grant application itself. According to two reliable sources, Halbert was initially listed in the online form for the NSF grant as the Program Manager, a position now linked to Plato Smith, the customary contact for NSF grants going through this office.