Updates to The Carpentries' Code of Conduct

Background to the recent revision of the Code

Since its inception as Software Carpentry, The Carpentries community has always subscribed to a Code of Conduct (CoC). Our Code of Conduct helps explain to community members and others what behaviours are acceptable and expected, and what constitutes unacceptable behaviour. Our CoC is a crucial part of making our community more inclusive and diverse, because it extends a welcome to everyone regardless of their background, ethnicity, skill level, gender, career stage, or beliefs.

Although we have always had a Code of Conduct, incidents in 2016 showed some limitations with the then current CoC. In particular, these incidents highlighted issues with enforcing the CoC and adjudicating reported Code of Conduct violations. We began a comprehensive review and update of our CoC, including development of an enforcement manual and reporting guidelines. These documents were created by our community as a whole, with help from the newly formed Policy committee. The revised Code of Conduct, enforcement manual, and reporting guidelines, as well as the Policy Committee, were shared jointly between Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry, which were then separate projects. More about the process leading up to these changes in our Code of Conduct can be found in the blog post that accompanied the release of those documents.

In January 2018, the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry projects merged to form The Carpentries. This has led to an update in governance and policy documents, a restructuring process which included reviewing the current Code of Conduct and its surrounding procedures. To help in this process, we contacted Sage Sharp of Otter Tech. Otter Tech is a diversity consultancy that runs Code of Conduct incident response training for community moderators. They reviewed our Code of Conduct and Enforcement Manual and came up with several suggestions and ideas for us. This started a review process of both documents within the Code of Conduct Committee (formerly, the Policy Committee). Thus, we recently released an updated Code of Conduct.

The new Code of Conduct is available in the Carpentries Handbook. As you might see, the new text is not radically different from the old one. However, we have made changes that relate to the question of intent. As a community, we have decided to step away from evaluating intent. If somebody’s behaviour is causing a problem, it really doesn’t matter why they are behaving that way; our actions in enforcing the Code of Conduct are intended to prevent harm, not to assign blame. So language like “intended to” has been dropped. The updated Code of Conduct also now provides straightforward examples of both beneficial and unwanted behaviour, in order to clarify expectations for our community members.

Revising such documents is not done overnight. The Policy committee quickly realised that revising the CoC and the Enforcement Manual at the same time would be too much work. However, now that we have completed the CoC revision, we have started to work on the Enforcement Manual. Sage Sharp conducted an incident response training session with the Code of Conduct committee, as well as with some Carpentries staff and a number of community members. That training, together with the CoC and Enforcement Manual review done by Sharp, provided a lot of new insights and thoughts regarding how best to handle incidents. We will also need to review how we handle incidents in light of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European Union regulation that impacts how companies and organisations store and process personal information.

Another consequence of this review process has been the renaming of the Policy Committee to the Code of Conduct committee. We have a new email address, which is coc@carpentries.org. This committee now also has its own page on the Carpentries website, so that it is easy for all to see who is a member. Please reach out to us if you’re interested in getting involved.

Update Log
2018-12-07: The Executive Council has authorised a small committee to make updates to the Code of Conduct Enforcement Manual and Reporting Guidelines. These individuals will develop a draft by January 10th. The draft will be open for comments until January 25th, and the final documents will be released February 7th. For more information on this project, see the Code of Conduct Guidelines Taskforce Repository.

Dialogue & Discussion

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