Joint future for Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry are sister organizations focused on teaching computational best practices to scientists. They are currently independent organizations with their own fiscal sponsorship, Steering Committees, governance model, and bank accounts. However, as is perhaps no surprise the organizations’ operations have evolved to share memberships, infrastructure for workshop coordination, an instructor training program, and even some staff members. This ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure has allowed us to build a shared community of instructors with more than 1000 certified instructors and 47 current Member Organizations around the world.

As Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry continue to grow and develop, this ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure will not scale. The governing committees of both Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry have recognized that as more mature organizations they can be most effective under a unified governance model with reduced operational overhead and streamlined support for curriculum development and maintenance. Over the last few months, a joint group of representatives appointed from (and regularly reporting back to) the governing committees of both organizations has been exploring and moving towards merging the governance and staff organizations to officially recognize this shared alignment and vision, and going forward to best support the community, member organizations, and curriculum.

On August 30, 2017, the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Committees met jointly and approved the following two motions, which together form a strong commitment to continue moving forward with the merger, and to eventually hand off governance to a joint Carpentries Steering Committee:

  • Approve merger of Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry: The Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry steering committees approve the merger of the two organizations into a single umbrella organization with associated lesson organizations, with a starting date of January 1, 2018.
  • Approve appointed members of combined board: We appoint Karen Cranston, Kate Hertweck, Mateusz Kuzak, Sue McClatchy, and Ethan White to the board of the umbrella organization.

We are now very excited for the next steps in putting together the Carpentries! Even though the two motions passed this week lay the groundwork for a merged organization, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the details of how this will all come together. The two Steering Committees (which remain in command until Dec 31) will be putting together Requests for Comment, because community input in decisions and structure around everything from governance to curriculum oversight will be key.

A very brief history of Software and Data Carpentry


What does this mean for our instructors?

Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry have already unified their instructor training to have one Carpentries instructor certification and program. Hence, the instructor training program will continue as it is. People who are already instructors can continue to teach workshops as they already do! Nothing substantive will change. There may be some updates on email list locations, but it will remain the joint Carpentries instructor community that it already is.

The new Carpentries Board of Directors will include elected positions, and instructors will be the electorate casting votes for those, as they have in the past for the Software Carpentry Steering Committee. More information about the elections will be coming out in October. Please also consider running yourself for a position on the Steering Committee to help guiding the Carpentries through this next phase! If you’re interested in more information on elections now, please contact Kate Hertweck (

What does this mean for our Member Organizations?

Memberships are already joint between Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry, so there will be no changes with memberships. All signed, pending and upcoming membership agreements will remain valid and will simply changeover to the Carpentries after January. We will be transitioning the Software Carpentry Advisory Council to a joint Carpentries council, and we will keep members updated on that shift.

Proposed organizational structure and leadership

Members of both the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Committees and staff have been meeting regularly to outline the steps needed for transitioning from two independent organizations to one united organization. The Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry steering committees have approved the following structure to be effective on January 1, 2018:

  • A single umbrella organization (tentatively named The Carpentries) with associated lesson organizations
  • A governing Board of Directors composed of 9 members (5 appointed, 4 elected), each serving a two year term without limits on the number of terms.
  • An Executive Director who reports to the Board of Directors. Initially, this position will be offered to Dr. Tracy Teal.
  • A Director of Business Development who reports to the Executive Director. Initially, this position will be offered to Jonah Duckles.

Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry will remain as distinct lesson organizations with their unique brand. Currently, we are articulating the roles and responsibilities of the unified organization and the associated lessons. Below is a brief summary of the responsibilities we propose will fall under the Carpentries and under the lesson organizations.

Proposed structure and responsibilities of The Carpentries and the Lesson Organizations


Just in case you are wondering who the current Steering Committee members are and who will be on the 2018 Board of Directors, here’s a table for your reference. (M = Member of the current merger committee that serves as the liaison between the community and the Software Carpentry and the Data Carpentry Steering committees during the planning and execution of the merger.)

2017 Software Carpentry Steering Committee
(all elected)
2017 Data Carpentry Steering Committee
(all appointed)
2018 Carpentries Board of Directors
(5 appointed, 4 elected)
  • Rayna HarrisM
  • Kate HertweckM
  • Christina Koch
  • Mateusz Kuzak
  • Karin Lagesen
  • Sue McClatchy
  • Karen CranstonM
  • Hilmar LappM
  • Aleksandra Pawlik
  • Karthik Ram
  • Ethan White
  • Karen Cranston
  • Kate Hertweck
  • Mateusz Kuzak
  • Sue McClatchy
  • Ethan White
  • to be elected
  • to be elected
  • to be elected
  • to be elected

Next Steps in the merger

There are many areas of work to be done before January 1, 2018. Some of the things we are working on include:

  • Articulating the bylaws for the Carpentries
  • Articulating the policy and leadership within each Lesson Organization
  • Posting Requests For Comment on bylaws, structure and policy for community comment, incorporating feedback.
  • Approving a unified budget
  • Launching a new website
  • Electing the 2018 Board of Director members
  • Updating or crafting mission and vision statements
  • And so many more details…

Questions, comments, want to learn more?

If you have questions, comments or just want to learn more than what’s already posted here, please get in touch with staff at, Tracy Teal at, Jonah Duckles at, the Software Carpentry Steering Committee president Kate Hertweck at or the Data Carpentry Steering Committee at

Also, feel free to comment on this post, or start a new conversation at

Community is and will continue to be a key component in this merger, so comments and discussion are always appreciated!

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