CBI: Collections > Oral Histories
University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

CBI FastLane Oral Histories

History of NSF FastLane

Thomas Misa and Jeffrey Yost have completed an historical assessment of NSF's FastLane system. Their book Fastlane: Managing Science in the Internet World is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press in January 2016.  The project developed a new Web-based interview platform, in addition to traditional oral histories and documentary analysis, to investigate the design and development of FastLane and the use of the system by different higher education institutions (especially at HBCU and EPSCoR-state universities) as well as NSF itself. The project's 400 in-person interviews as well as 400 online interviews created a unique dataset where 643 of these interviews are publicly accessible.

FastLane Oral History Public Archive

CBI's FastLane oral history archive provides a large dataset on the design, development, and use of the National Science Foundation's FastLane computer system. FastLane was developed in the 1990s and made mandatory for agency-wide submission of proposals in October 2000; it became NSF's core system used in all phases of grants management. With support from NSF's Human Centered Computing program (details below), researchers at the Charles Babbage Institute (principally Jeffrey Yost and Thomas Misa) conducted extensive oral histories during 2008 to 2011.CBI FastLane OH logo More than 400 in-person interviews were conducted with NSF staff and managers as well as university researchers, sponsored projects staff, and administrators during site visits at 29 universities. In addition to traditional in-person interviews, the research team designed and built an online interview platform that permitted an additional 400 online (self-directed) interviews. Around 80 percent of our 800 interviewees agreed to make their responses available to the public, the basis for this public dataset of 643 interviews.


The interview transcripts are here stored in two files: in-person.zip and on-line.zip. The in-person interviews are identified by PROJECT_INSTITUTION_NAME_DATE. For example FL_NDSU_SlangerM_2008-04-28 is an interview done for the FastLane project at North Dakota State University with Marie Slanger on 28 April 2008, while FL_NSF_CovertK_2011-02-15 is a FastLane interview done at NSF with Katharine Covert on 15 February 2011. Alphabetized in a directory, it is easy to group the universities together or to identify a specific person at NSF.

We asked on-line interviewees to choose one of three roles (NSF, PI, or Sponsored Projects) but we could not be positive of their institutional affiliations. These interviews are identified by ROLE_Interview_AnswersNUMBER. For example, PI_Interview_Answers313public is PI interview number 313 (where this number was a database index number ranging from 300 to 800). Most interviewees, but not all, readily identified their universities.

In-person interviews methodology

  1. Interview conducted and recorded by PI, co-PI, or GSRA
  2. Recording transcribed
  3. Transcript lightly edited (for readability only) by CBI
  4. Interview sent to interviewee for editing/review
  5. Interview finalized and saved as a pdf

On-line self-directed interviews

  1. Email sent requesting participation
  2. Interviewee registered with the online platform (created by our research team) and chose a role of PI, NSF, or Sponsored Projects personnel
  3. Interviewee responded to interview questions
  4. Interviewee saved the interview as finished or for later completion
  5. Interview transcripts were saved as pdfs without editing

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0811988, "Designing and Using FastLane: Distilling Lessons for Cyberinfrastructures." This project description as well as links to all interviews both in-person and online can be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.13020/D6RG6B.