Q3 and Q4 Project Work at The Carpentries

Here's what The Carpentries team accomplished in Q2 and Q3 2019, and a look into work that will continue in Q4 2019.

In May, we shared our vision and goals for our core team’s work in Q2. In this post, we lay out our accomplishments on that work, and also on our Q3 projects. There’s a lot that we’ve been working on! If you’re interested in a particular team’s work, you can navigate directly to their projects using the links below.

The projects we select for our quarterly cycles are designed to give us time to focus on our operational priorities (operational efficiency, accessibility, revenue generation, and compliance), while continuing to perform all of our ongoing work. Ongoing work includes supporting workshops, instructor training events, lesson development and maintenance, communications, and much more! Over the course of the quarter, we share our accomplishments and challenges with each other, stay in touch on how our individual work affects the whole team, and learn from each other.

Without further ado, here’s what we’ve been working on in Q2 and Q3!

Four yellow rubber ducks with The Carpentries logo, in a row. Text underneath image says ‘And give me an emblem, a mascot of light heartedness, a symbol of the ritual of baptism by water, something that floats, moves with the tide, and cheers me when I become too serious, about all these other things.’ Above: Four yellow rubber ducks with The Carpentries logo, in a row. Text underneath image is an excerpt from a poem about The Carpentries. The excerpt reads: ‘And give me an emblem, a mascot of light heartedness, a symbol of the ritual of baptism by water, something that floats, moves with the tide, and cheers me when I become (too serious, about all these other things).’

Business Team

Elizabeth Williams · Talisha Sutton-Kennedy · Tracy Teal

Financial Report, Budget Development and Tracking

In Q2, we generated a Financial Report for fiscal year 2018. This report presents an overview of our income and expenses and serves as a resource to support our long-term financial sustainability. In order to sustain the financial health of The Carpentries as we grow and diversify, we have developed a quarterly budget creation and tracking system. This will allow us, as a community, to consider the financial impact of strategic decisions as we think about priorities and activities.

In Q3 the Business Team has continued this work in cooperation with the Carpentries Executive Council Treasurer, Raniere Silva. We have created a Quarterly Budget format and workflow and will be working on integrating this into a Yearly Budget format and workflow for 2020.

As we work to diversify our revenue sources, we have made it easier for individuals to contribute financially to The Carpentries by updated the aesthetics and information on donations page. Our websites and lesson pages experience high traffic volumes (the Data Carpentry R Ecology lesson receives more than 15,000 unique visitors per month!), so we wanted to offer those users an opportunity to donate to support our work by making the system easier to use and giving donors a clear idea of what their donations will serve.

Sponsorship Model Task Force

In Q2, we assembled a Sponsorship Model Task Force to explore a model for sponsorship with the community. We see high potential for stable funding and partnership-building by developing a sponsorship model that invites mission-aligned organizations to share and support the vision of our organisation. This task force has begun to meet and outline work for piloting a sponsorship model in time for CarpentryCon 2020.

Community Development Team

Kari L. Jordan · Serah Njambi Kiburu

Work outside the CoCc Mandate

This quarter, we assembled a task force to develop recommendations to the Executive Council for developing support structures and guidelines for incidents that happen outside the mandate of The Carpentries Code of Conduct committee. The task force gathered feedback from our community and released a public report of their discussions and recommendations. In Q4, staff and the Executive Council will work together in deciding follow-up actions on these recommendations.

The Carpentries Values

As our community coalesces into a shared identity as “The Carpentries”, defining our core values is a priority. Our community values shape everything from the ways that we communicate, to the work that we take on, to the funding opportunities we pursue. Feedback from our community members has been, and will continue to be, vital in articulating these values. We are looking forward to continuing these conversations and formulating these values with our community in Q4 and beyond. For everyone who has interacted / collaborated with members of The Carpentries community in workshops, conferences or across different initiatives, take a few minutes to answer three questions via GitHub, our community Discussion channel or anonymously via this Google Form.

Communications Strategy and Implementation Plan

As you may remember, we developed our community communications strategy in Q1, an exercise that allowed us to define our goals around use of our communications platforms, outline the audiences we communicate to, and integrate inclusivity practices for all communications on The Carpentries channels. We then started implementing it across our platforms and resources in Q2 and have continued with this implementation work in Q3. One of our primary goals for this year is to empower our community members to document and share their knowledge and experiences on our community blog, YouTube channel](https://www.youtube.com/thecarpentries) and other community spaces. Our communications “how-to” guides in our handbook are one primary tool we are currently using to achieve this, so have a read and let us know what other guides you would like The Carpentries team to make available for you.

Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Roadmap

In Q2, we collaborated with our community, staff team, and leaders in the open science/open data community, to develop an Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Roadmap. This roadmap appreciates where we are, plans where we want to go, and maps out how we can get there. It is our overarching plan that outlines objectives for each staff team and program, and performance goals to help us meet our objectives. We shared our process for developing this roadmap in two previous blog posts. In Q3, we identified the need to develop metrics for all of our performance goals, and started researching metrics and performance indicators.

Many people contributed to the thinking and strategy to develop this roadmap, including The Carpentries Staff Team, Instructor Development Committee, Code of Conduct Committee, Dr. Hadley Wickam, Dr. Heather Turner, Dr. Joslynn Lee, and Dr. Mel Chua. Thanks to you all for helping advance our equity, inclusion, and accessibility goals. We invite everyone to continue contributing to the ideas in our roadmap by filing an issue on the equity-and-inclusion GitHub repository.

Curriculum Team

Erin Becker · François Michonneau

Curriculum Development Handbook

At the end of Q1, we announced the creation of our Curriculum Development Handbook (CDH). The CDH serves as a stand-alone reference manual for folks developing lessons using our lesson template in line with The Carpentries community values and educational philosophy. We’ve now advanced work on this handbook to include information on community development roles and the lesson life cycle. This continues to be a work in progress and contributions as issues or pull requests on this project’s GitHub repository are very welcome! This quarter has also seen the launch of The Carpentries Incubator as a central location for sharing open-source lesson materials and collaborating on new curricular development.

Genomics Curriculum Relaunch

Data Carpentry’s Genomics workshop teaches researchers how to manage their data, access data from popular sequencing databases, automate their analysis pipelines by writing custom Bash scripts, and compute in the cloud. Genomics is a fast-moving field, and starting in August 2017, Instructors began to advocate for updating both the data set and software used, to modernise this workshop and keep it relevant. Over a 22 month period, hundreds of Instructors, helpers, learners, Maintainers, Curriculum Advisors, and others contributed to this major curriculum update and publication. Read our blog post for more details and to get involved in teaching or hosting this workshop!

Lesson Release

Thanks to the more than 1100 of you who contributed, twenty-seven Data Carpentry, Library Carpentry and Software Carpentry lessons were successfully released on Zenodo this June. Publication provides contributors with a citable work product, and helps us recognise the work our community members do to keep our lessons healthy. If you don’t see yourself listed as an author for a lesson you contributed to, please let us know by contacting team@carpentries.org so we can give you credit for your work.

Image Analysis Curriculum

With funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF, Data Carpentry has been collaborating with Dr. Tessa Durham Brooks and Dr. Mark Meysenburg at Doane College, Nebraska, USA to develop new lessons in image processing. Drs. Durham Brooks and Meysenburg have piloted this workshop at Doane and are now working with Constantin Pape and Dominik Kutra at EMBL, Germany, to translate the materials to a different Python library, based on pilot feedback. This lesson is considered to be in alpha stage and is cannot be requested as a Centrally-Organised Data Carpentry workshop, but community members are encouraged to work through the material and provide feedback on its GitHub repository. We anticipate a beta-release and pilot workshops at multiple institutions in early 2020.

Economics Curriculum

In addition to the Image Analysis curriculum work discussed above, our grant from The Alfred P. Sloane foundation also focused on development of a new Data Carpentry curriculum for Economics. We have been working with Dr. Miklos Koren at Central European University to draft these lessons, and have piloted one lesson at the European Economics Association Congress in Manchester in August. If you are interested in following or being involved in development of this curriculum, please visit the associated GitHub repositories for the Stata and bash shell lessons.

Instructor Training Team

Erin Becker · Karen Word

Instructor Trainer Recruitment and Alumni Program

Our Trainers teach Instructor Training, lead teaching demonstrations, and support continued improvement of our Instructor Training curriculum. This community has grown from one member in 2012 (Greg Wilson) to nearly eighty in 2019. Community members become Trainers through our Trainer Training program, an 8-week course covering pedagogy and Carpentries practices.

We have not yet had a formal recruitment strategy for this program, leading to unbalanced geographical growth of this community. This project was initially conceived to create such a strategy, to help make Trainer recruitment more intentional and transparent. Following discussions with members of the staff Leadership and Membership Teams, we determined that we have enough Trainers to meet our projected capacity needs and don’t need to run another Trainer Training in this calendar year.

However, it has become clear that the number of certified Trainers doesn’t give a full picture of our capacity. Changing careers and lives mean that the availability of our Trainer community-members to participate in training events and other community responsibilities can also change, and our program had no way to account for or embrace those changes. With feedback from the Trainer community, we have developed a Trainer Alumni Program to enable Trainers to take a planned leave of absence. With this program, we will now have a more accurate estimate of our capacity for Instructor Training, and Trainers will have a guilt-free opportunity to take a break or step down from Trainer duties. Twelve (14%) Trainers have transitioned to an Alumni role, with the remaining 76 reaffirming their commitment and availability to support Instructor Training through September 2020. We look forward to welcoming a new class of Trainers early next year. Please expect a call for applications in November!

Teaching Demonstration Scheduling

In January, we increased the number of teaching demonstration sessions we ran to make it easier for Instructor trainees to complete their checkout. However, we found Trainer availability doesn’t follow a specific pattern, leaving many demo sessions without hosts. This placed a burden on trainees, when demos were cancelled, and also on a few highly-engaged Trainers and staff, who often hosted at the last minute. We’ve now changed the way we schedule demos, allowing Trainers to choose any time that fits their schedule (rather than from a collection of repeating time slots). This has the added benefit of distributing sessions over a wider set of times, making it easier for trainees to find a time that works for them. With this new system, Trainers have met or exceeded our 12 sessions per month goal for every month from August through October!

Infrastructure Team

François Michonneau · Maneesha Sane · Tracy Teal

Infrastructure Documentation and Systems

We continued improving documentation and management of our infrastructure systems. We’ve cleaned up and systematised repository access across our 50+ lesson repos, and have created Maintainer teams in GitHub to make permissions easier to keep up to date moving forward. These teams also provide opportunities for Maintainers to use GitHub’s team-based communication features.

We’ve put a system in place for management and development of AMY, our internal database. AMY is where we manage data on instructor certification, workshops, instructor training events, memberships, and more and is central to the work of many of our staff team members. By systematising how we handle bug fixes, prioritise enhancements to existing features, and implement new feature requests, we can optimise developer time and ensure this work best supports our communities needs.

Survey Migration to Typeform

Until recently, all of our pre- and post-workshop surveys have been hosted on SurveyMonkey. As our community grows, we have developed new needs for survey hosting and data storage. We began to investigate Typeform as an alternative survey platform in early 2019 and piloted it with a few workshops. Feedback from instructors was very positive and Typeform makes it easier to develop custom workflow with the data collected. Transitioning to Typeform was also a good opportunity to revamp how results from the pre- and post-workshop surveys are presented to instructors (see below).

Instructor-focused Reports from Workshop Survey Feedback

A core value of our community is continued improvement through feedback. Learners at our workshops complete pre- and post-workshop surveys. That data is used to inform our overall assessment and is also made available to individual Instructors for their workshops. The format of the survey results output from SurveyMonkey, however, is not easy to interpret and act upon. Our goal is to make it easier for Instructors to review feedback from their learners and make actionable changes in their teaching (and also to know what worked well!). We’ve been working to create an Instructor-focused survey results format, which will present this information to Instructors in a clear way. In Q3, we have developed the infrastructure needed to provide a website that will present the results of the surveys to the instructors. We plan to roll out this new system to all our workshops in Q4, and extend it to instructor training events in early 2020.

Lesson Program Website Template

As each our our lesson programs (Data Carpentry, Library Carpentry, and Software Carpentry) have grown, so have their websites, driven by a team of dedicated community. This growth has meant that the websites have developed inconsistent structures, often making it difficult for new and veteran community members alike to find the information they are looking for. In Q3, we began developing a standard template for all three lesson program websites, to ensure they all have the same navigation and site map, and only contain lesson program specific content. All other content will be directed to The Carpentries website and handbook. A small group of community members has provided feedback on the redesign. In future quarters, we will be developing a remote theme based on this design. The three lesson program sites (and any new lesson program site) will connect to this theme, ensuring we maintain a consistent structure as we continue to grow.

Membership Team

Elizabeth Williams · Tracy Teal

Member Organisation Council Meeting and Survey

We held another set of Member Organisation Council Meetings the week of June 17th. There were five meetings that brought together folks building Carpentries communities at their organisations through memberships. The meeting included general discussion on the topic of ‘Managing the Overhead of Membership, Capacity and Community Building’ to share tips, solutions and challenges around building and sustaining local communities. We remain excited about the ability of these meetings to bring member organisation representatives from around the world together to share ideas. We were also able to share some preliminary results from our 2019 Member Organisation Survey at the meetings. This survey focused on the goals different organisations have for membership and the areas of membership we could develop to help attain those goals. So far, we can see that there is enthusiasm for exploring the addition of curriculum development, community building resources, and learner support to our membership program. We would like to gather more input from member organisation representatives through this survey and are excited to discuss the results in the next Member Organisation Council meeting. With community and staff input, we can determine the additions and improvements that should be prioritised for maximum impact across Member Organisations.

Workshop Administration Team

Kari Jordan · SherAaron Hurt · Talisha Sutton-Kennedy ·Maneesha Sane

In Q2 and Q3, we have redesigned our workshop request form!. Our old form was unwieldy, providing a single point of input to serve at least three distinct needs:

  • workshop request
  • reporting Self-Organised workshop
  • request for workshop consult and info

This meant users had to answer a number of questions that weren’t relevant to them, and also made form responses more difficult to process on the back-end. We’ve separated out these three use cases, reducing the number of questions users will see, while keeping everything centralized with a single landing page. As part of this project, we’ve also updated our workshops page and begun a pilot to track (and give our Instructors credit for!) non-standard workshops. We are very excited to have these changes go live, and are now moving on to other projects focused on improving our community’s experience around workshops. Read more in this blog post.


Together, our community and staff have accomplished so much over the past two quarters! As we enter the final quarter of 2019, we are excited to continue working with our Instructors, Maintainers, Mentors, Regional Coordinators, Trainers, and our committees and task forces to build and strengthen The Carpentries community and advance our mission of building global capacity for conducting efficient, open, and reproducible research. We welcome your suggestions, advice, and collaboration on how to best meet these goals!

Dialogue & Discussion

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