Supporting the Curriculum Development Community in 2024

How you can help us continue to support open peer review of lessons.

The recent departure of several colleagues from The Carpentries Core Team has impacted every facet of the organisation’s operations, with changes outlined in a recent post to this blog.

As Curriculum Team Lead, my main concern has been figuring out the best answer to the question, “How can a Curriculum Team reduced in size and capacity best meet the needs of an active community of lesson developers and maintainers?” The support the Curriculum team provides falls into three categories: community-developed lessons, official lessons, and lesson infrastructure. In this post, I describe how the Curriculum Team will support the community’s activities in these areas for the rest of this year and how and why you can get involved.

Community Lessons

In addition to launching and coordinating Collaborative Lesson Development Training, the Curriculum Team continues to support community members developing lessons in The Carpentries Incubator. Most community lesson development takes place independently, making our involvement minimal. Still, we continue to process new lesson proposals submitted to the Incubator and respond to questions and requests for support where prompted. The Carpentries Lab hex sticker design

The biggest change to our support for community lesson development comes to The Carpentries Lab, the platform we created to host peer-reviewed lessons created by the community. Until now, I have been acting as Editor for the Lab, managing the process of open peer review for lessons submitted there. I am sorry to say that I no longer have the capacity to do this alone, and we are calling for volunteers from the community to become Editors and help us continue reviewing lessons for the Lab.

Become an Editor for The Carpentries Lab!

Lesson reviews in The Carpentries Lab are publicly visible issue threads on the Reviews repository. Editors manage the review process, performing basic checks to determine whether submitted lessons are appropriate for the Lab and ready for review, finding and assigning reviewers, and ensuring the integrity of the review process.

Becoming an Editor for the Lab is a fantastic way to support lesson development in The Carpentries community, expand your network, and gain experience with Open Source and peer-review practices.

Community members acting as Editors for the Lab would benefit from prior experience in any/all of the following:

  • the academic peer review process
  • managing projects on GitHub
  • curriculum design
  • web accessibility

Editors from the community will be supported by The Carpentries Curriculum Team. We already provide a guide for Editors, which will be expanded further, and the Curriculum Team will be available for direct support, e.g. to help contact potential reviewers, to troubleshoot issues, and to answer questions. We will also schedule dedicated onboarding sessions for community members taking on the role.

If you are interested in becoming an Editor, please send me an email.

Official Lessons

Supporting the amazing community of Maintainers for Data Carpentry, Library Carpentry, and Software Carpentry lessons remains our priority. Alongside our Maintainer Community Lead, Nathaniel Porter – who recently received some well-deserved recognition at his University for his contributions to The Carpentries – we will run Maintainer Onboarding as usual, including the same GitHub for Maintainers skill-up as provided last year. Look out for the call for new Maintainers, to be published in the next couple of weeks!

Although direct support for Maintainers remains, we have scaled back our involvement in the Curriculum Advisors program. Although many Curriculum Advisory Committees (CACs) have committed to remain active and may call for new members in the coming months, some will inevitably need to wind down without fresh intake. We are working to keep Maintainers informed about the status of their respective CACs. We will prioritise re-establishing full support for Curriculum Advisors when the capacity of the Curriculum Team increases.

Lesson Infrastructure

Following last year’s successful rollout of a brand new infrastructure for building lesson websites, The Carpentries Workbench, across all Data Carpentry, Library Carpentry, and Software Carpentry lessons, the priority in this area is ongoing maintenance to ensure that lesson websites can be built and used to teach and learn.

For the rest of 2024 our focus will be on maintenance and sustainability, which leaves little room for the development of new features. This is particularly regrettable for aspects of the infrastructure that could further support exciting clusters of activity within the community, such as internationalisation and regular lesson publication/release cycles. Nevertheless, great progress was made towards supporting multiple languages in Workbench lessons by Joel Nitta and Zhian Kamvar late last year, in version 16.0 of sandpaper, and contributions from other community members are helping us drive things forward.

And what about infrastructure support for community-owned lessons in The Carpentries Incubator? We recently added a page describing a semi-automated workflow for migrating lessons to the Workbench documentation, which we recommend Incubator lesson developers try to follow independently. We will be available to support community members who get stuck while following that guide.

Despite the reduced capacity of the Core Team, I am pleased that our Associate Director, Erin Becker, and Director of Technology, Rob Davey, have committed to maintaining the Workbench tooling. We also continue to see contributions to the infrastructure from community members, which has been even more reassuring. To everyone who has opened an issue, contributed to a discussion, or made a pull request to any of the Workbench repositories – thank you, and please keep them coming!

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