Q2 Project Work at The Carpentries

Here's what The Carpentries team is working on in the second quarter of 2019.

Some of The Carpentries team at an Improv session in 2019 Some of The Carpentries team at an Improv session in January 2019

Zip Zap Zop is a team building activity that The Carpentries team loved and stressed over in equal measure at an Improv session we all attended in January 2019. Standing in a circle, the game started out slow and we all felt comfortable with it, enjoyed it even. But as time went by and our facilitator nudged us to pick up the pace, we all experienced the adrenaline and pressure that comes with increased urgency and demand for our attention and whittled-down focus in any activity, and had the opportunity to empathise with the overwhelmed among us, and marvel at the resilience of a select few.

In many ways, working remotely in a distributed team that serves a community-led organisation as our team does can feel akin to Zip Zap Zop. For this reason, The Carpentries team has been actively balancing out important project work alongside our urgent, everyday tasks in two ways:

  1. by singling out specific issues that affect how efficiently and seamlessly our community grows, collaborates and thrives, and auditing these issues against The Carpentries goals to help determine which ones to prioritise in any given Quarter. We then cluster all work related to relevant issues into finite chunks that we call quarterly projects.

    The Carpentries team takes on these quarterly projects alongside daily repetitive tasks, and they are designed to tap into varied perspectives, challenge and develop our expertise in the team, and offer opportunities for collaboration among us.

  2. by sharing the work we are undertaking with our global community at a pace that’s comfortable for all and in forms that can be accessed by members of the community in their own time

    At the onset of 2019, The Carpentries team decided to start sharing our quarterly job plans publicly. At the beginning of every quarter, we estimate how much time we will dedicate to different activities that our different roles afford us. We then update the actual time spent on those activities on a monthly basis. Our leadership team expounded on the premise for this work in a February 2019 blog post.

    And now, from this blog post onwards, we have decided to start communicating about the quarterly projects we undertake with you. In every quarter, you can expect to read about ongoing work and gain insight into how it relates to work we have done in the past and ties in with our shared goals as The Carpentries community.

In their own words, here’s what each team was up to in Q1 2019, and how that work has informed Q2 2019 work that’s currently underway:

Community Development Team

Kari L. Jordan · Serah Rono

In the first quarter of 2019, we assessed all of The Carpentries communications channels, requested for input from the broader Carpentries community, and developed a communications strategy to help define how and why we communicate as a team at The Carpentries. The strategy includes measures to create awareness about the work that we do, encourage participation and collaboration, and empower and edify our community. But we are also convinced that a strategy is not sufficient in and of itself. Implementation is an important subsequent step.

While implementing the strategy is a continuous task that we hope to carve out into all aspects of our communication over time, in Q2 2019, the Community Development team is test driving the new strategy by:

  1. reviewing, refining and standardising content in existing community-facing resources on our website, in our Handbook, YouTube channel and other persistent sources that our community references regularly.
  2. working with other staff teams to incorporate the communications strategy into their regular and quarterly project work i.e. by identifying specific audiences that each project is geared at, we can identify channels where these communities thrive, and ways to engage them meaningfully over time
  3. being more present and active in environments our community meets and collaborates in so we can learn from you, and understand how to help initiate new collaborations, rally others to participate in ongoing ones and sustain existing ones as community needs evolve over time. For example,
    1. we hosted Community Discussions on 21-22 May (view recording) and learnt so much from you on paths to consider as we work on our Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Roadmap.
    2. From our monthly Carpentries Instructors in Africa call, community members were really drawn to Bianca’s and Katrin’s creative ideas for teaching R workshops, and they agreed to collaborate on this informative blog post - Tips and Tricks for Teaching R. We are keen to receive more posts by the community for The Carpentries blog, and anyone interested in submitting a draft can fill out this form or send it to Serah Rono directly.
    3. we were at CSV Conference in early May 2019 and met lots of researchers, librarians and technologists there, some of whom will be facilitating our themed community discussions, also known as Carpentries Conversations, in the coming months. Look out for that. We’re also very excited to be attending CarpentryConnect in Manchester in June 2019, and Serah Rono will co-chair the Open Source communities track at SciPy 2019 in Austin, Texas in July 2019. We look forward to meeting some of our community in person at these events!

Curriculum Team

Erin Becker · François Michonneau

In the first quarter of 2019, the Curriculum Team worked with Maintainers of the Data Analysis and Visualisation in R for Genomics lesson to complete an alpha version of that lesson. Jason Williams and Uwe Hillgert are hosting a pilot workshop using this lesson at the University of Arizona, along with a BugBBQ hacky day to catalyse community work on the Genomics lessons and prepare for publication in June. Thirty-six of The Carpentries lessons are planning to be involved in the June release. Maintainers for those lessons welcome community contributions. Read the blog post to see how you can get involved!

The Curriculum Team also developed an initial draft of a Curriculum Development Handbook, which is now being used by Miklos Koren of Central European University to develop a Data Carpentry curriculum for economics researchers. This team is also working with Tessa Durham Brooks and Mark Meysenburg at Doane College, Nebraska, USA to pilot a workshop for image analysis.

In late May, The Carpentries will begin spreading the word about our updated Genomics curriculum to member institutions and other groups. We are excited to offer more opportunities for Instructors to teach these lessons and will be offering a one-hour webinar starting in June, which will be recorded and offered through our YouTube channel. If you’d like to be notified when the webinar is available, please add your email address here. We will be announcing opportunities to teach these lessons through the Instructors TopicBox list, so make sure you’re signed up to receive these messages! If you’re excited and want to start exploring the curriculum now, you can access all the lessons from the Genomics workshop homepage and can get information on how to launch your own AWS EC2 instance to explore the materials.

Instructor Training Team

Erin Becker · Karen Word

In the first quarter of 2019, we addressed the fact that we had no existing workflow to handle “odd cases” of instructor training requests. While these are largely run in the context of membership, there are occasional events where our membership model does not fit well. There are also sometimes questions about whether additional seats can be added to existing in-person instructor training events. We now have a workflow to handle these occasional requests and assign charges or scholarships in each case. We still expect most events to be arranged through membership, but anyone with a request that doesn’t fit can now contact Karen to get the ball rolling. We learned a lot about the needs of our community in developing this process, and have been gratified to learn that people are pleased to have a pathway to accomplish their training goals.

For Q2, we will be reviewing and recommending improvements to our procedures for recruiting and selecting Instructor Trainers. Our Trainer community is a powerful force in setting the tone and direction of The Carpentries as a whole – they train our Instructors! In the past, our process for recruitment and selection has been successful in recruiting amazing and dedicated Trainers, but in the absence of explicit structure it has also been confusing and opaque. This is an entirely new project, which will take the long view on strategic planning for The Carpentries, with the aim of creating a process that is transparent, fair, equitable, and effective in recruiting trainees who are enthusiastic about our mission and empowered to carry it forward. We anticipate rolling out our next call for Instructor Trainer recruitment in September-November of 2019, so the broader community and interested applicants can look forward to learning more about our new and improved processes at that time!

Infrastructure Team

François Michonneau · Maneesha Sane · Tracy Teal

2018 was spent transitioning from the separate identities of Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry to a unified identity of “The Carpentries”, welcoming in Library Carpentry as an official lesson program, and transitioning to Community Initiatives as our fiscal sponsor. We spent the early part of 2019 ensuring this new identity is reflected across all our platforms (front facing and back end). This included things like updating documentation across all four websites, The Carpentries Handbook, lesson templates and other materials, and we’re continuing this work in the second quarter of 2019.

For Q2 our projects include updating the workshop surveys to use a more flexible and robust backend data structure, and more relevant presentation of the results for instructors. We have also heard that people are using Carpentries lessons outside our workshops, and that they are looking for ways to contribute to sustain our organisation. For instance, the Data Carpentry R Ecology lesson receives more than 15,000 unique visitors per month! We’re evaluating having an unobtrusive ‘Donate’ button on the lesson, to see if it’s a way people want to support our work.

Each quarter, we will also be supporting all the other teams in their infrastructure, technology, and documentation needs. This includes ensuring documentation for new projects is up to date, and new projects are supported in evaluating and implementing new tools (web services, databases, etc.)

Membership Team

Elizabeth Williams · Tracy Teal

This quarter, the Membership Team is working to organise and hold our Q2 Member Organisation Council Meeting and to create and send out a Member Organisation Survey. The Member Organisation Council Meetings have been a place for representatives from Member Organisations to network, share challenges and solutions, receive updates about Carpentries activities, and voice ideas about the Membership program. In our last Council meeting at the end of 2018, members expressed interest in quarterly meetings, and we are excited to kick them off in this quarter. In the Member Organisation Survey, we will be seeking feedback on Member Organisations’ goals for membership and additions and improvements we could make to help the Membership Program better align with these goals.

Workshop Team

Kari Jordan · SherAaron Hurt · Talisha Sutton-Kennedy

In the first quarter of 2019, the Workshop Administration team, including the Regional Coordinators, developed a list of all of the tasks that they would like to have automated. We feel strongly about the need for continued human interaction with the community, so our list also includes tasks that should not be automated. In addition to creating the list, we ranked our ideas in order of priority. We then worked with the Infrastructure team to review these two lists and decided on items to be automated in Q2.

In Q2, the Workshop Administration team will work with the Infrastructure, Membership and Community Development teams to update the Workshop Request Form. Currently, the single form is used to notify us of Centrally-Organised workshops, Self-Organised workshops and inquiries. To ensure that The Carpentries Staff captures the information needed and the Requester/Informer fills out only the necessary fields, we will recreate the one form and divide it into 3 forms:

  1. Workshop Request Form,
  2. Workshop Inquiry Form and
  3. Self-Organised Workshops Registration Form.

This project will impact and help our community and Member organisations as well as others interested in running Carpentries workshops.

The Workshop Administration Team is working on updating the process for how workshops are requested and reported. We want to make communicating with us about upcoming workshops (planned or desired) easier and efficient. Please stay tuned for more information about the progress of this update!

Business Team

Elizabeth Williams · Talisha Sutton-Kennedy · Tracy Teal

This quarter, the Business team is focusing on tracking and reporting our financial status and diversifying our income sources. In Q1, we started organising and analysing the financial data we have for the year 2018, and we have now presented it as a report to the Executive Council, to give them a clear idea of our current financial trends and help them to make informed strategic decisions. Similarly, we will be developing a workflow to generate and track quarterly and yearly budgets. As our community grows and diversifies, so must our business practices, and developing a system for monitoring income and expenses will help us sustain financial health.

Based on information from 2018 on the growth of our activities, we will also be exploring individual donations and sponsorships as additional models for financial support. We currently have a donation button on our website, leading to a donation page that has been out of date and lacking in engagement. This page will be updated, so that donors have a clear understanding of the impact their donation will have. A Sponsorship Model Task Force will be assembled to explore a model for sponsorship with the community. We see a sponsorship model that invites sponsors to share the vision of our organisation as having potential for stable funding and partnerships.

Carpentries team group photo

We’re excited about the work this quarter, that continues to build The Carpentries for sustainability and growth. So many people contribute their time, energy, enthusiasm, compassion and ideas to The Carpentries, and we are so grateful for working together with our global community every day. We welcome your comments, questions and input on ongoing work. Look for updates throughout the quarter!

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