I ran into Chip in the hallway today and "take it take it take it!" was his advice about the fellowship I've been offered. It was a pleasant surprise to see Chip because I didn't think I'd see him until August, and it was good to hear that advice. He thinks I'd be a fool not to take it.
When I ran into Chip he was talking to another professor from the fellowship committee that selected me. I talked with him (the committee member) for several minutes about the program, since I still don't totally see how I fit. He said several helpful things that have clarified what the program is and isn't.
First of all, my research should take priority over the fellowship requirements. If the fellowship would inhibit me from doing or publishing research, then that would be a reason not to do it.
Secondly, I don't have to rework my research to 'fit' this program. My research is my research, but this program will generally broaden my perspective and experience as a scientist through collaboration with people completely outside my discipline.
In retrospect, I think many people have been telling me to think of it this way, but I didn't really 'get it' until this morning's conversation. Yesterday I talked on the phone with Leo about it and he told me to think of the ancillary benefits rather than the research benefits. I still want to talk with Herb about it, but I think he'll say go for it.
Really this program is like icing on the research cake. Sweet, sweet icing that requires four semesters of classes to eat it.