rOpenSci Announces $400k Award from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to Empower Historically Excluded Groups as Community Leaders in Scientific Open Source Projects

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We are thrilled to have been awarded new funding as part of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Open Science program’s education and capacity building strategy. This $400K grant will support a new project to enable more members of historically excluded groups to participate in, benefit from, and become leaders in the R, research software engineering, and open source and open science communities.

Developers in the R and open source communities are overwhelmingly white, male, from a handful of countries, primarily English-speaking, and do not use assistive technologies to participate. Research software should serve everyone in our communities. It needs to be sustainable and open and built by and for all groups.

Developing embedded community champions and peer mentorship groups

A community champion is defined by the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE) as “an emergent leadership role within a community in which a community member takes on more responsibility for the success, sustainability, and/or running of the community”1. In collaboration with the CSCCE, we will design, implement, and evaluate a program to increase the diversity of contributors across all channels and levels of participation in rOpenSci by supporting two cohorts of community champions from historically excluded groups.

Each cohort will receive training on (1) how to plan and facilitate engaging and inclusive workshops to support participants’ success (by CSCCE), (2) channels through which new members can engage in and contribute to rOpenSci and R projects, and (3) technical skills in software development and review. This series of 90-minute sessions will be supplemented by ongoing peer connection in a private Slack channel so that champions expand their own professional support networks while gaining new skills. After training, champions will organize peer groups in communities in which they are embedded. They will promote participation in peer review and contribution to rOpenSci open source software, infrastructure, and documentation and gather feedback on where rOpenSci’s current programming might be improved to meet the needs of all who wish to participate. The tenure and responsibilities of each cohort will have clear start and end dates and champions will receive an honorarium.

We will develop peer mentorship groups to support participants from historically excluded groups in their first technical contributions. Peer-mentorship groups will be facilitated by rOpenSci technical and community management staff, and also by community champions after Year One. Facilitators will provide training for technical activities (preparing a pull request, reviewing a package, preparing a package for submission or publication on rOpenSci infrastructure). Training will be followed by group “office hours”, 1-on-1 support, and closed group chats to support first-time participants in making their first open-source contributions through rOpenSci.

Expanding documentation beyond the English language

One of our most successful efforts is our Software Peer Review System2. In 2021, we successfully piloted Spanish-language software peer review in which the submission itself, and all reviews and editorial responses were in Spanish. While Spanish-language review is now available, our documentation is still only available in English. We will translate our Dev Guide “rOpenSci Packages: Development, Maintenance, and Peer Review” and associated components of the peer-review system (e.g., submission forms, bug report templates), and produce guidance for authors on including non-English documentation in their software packages. As part of Year Two activities, we will explore the potential for expansion beyond Spanish to other languages, soliciting community input on demand and conducting pilot reviews.

Gratitude for those who do the hard work

We would like to thank organizations like Minorities in R for those who are often the “only ones in the room”, the Latin American R community, AfricaR, the nascent AsiaR community, R-Ladies for women and other gender minorities, Forwards and projects that encourage implementing accessibility standards3. Their members do the hard work and show us the way.

Look for an rOpenSci champions project launch announcement in 2022.


  1. Woodley L. and Pratt K. (2021). Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement. (2021) The CSCCE Community Participation Model – Exploring the Champion mode. 10.5281/zenodo.5275270 ↩︎

  2. Ram K., Boettiger C., Chamberlain S., Ross N., Salmon M. and Butland S. (2019) “A Community of Practice Around Peer Review for Long-Term Research Software Sustainability,” in Computing in Science & Engineering, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 59-65, 10.1109/MCSE.2018.2882753↩︎

  3. How To Improve Conference Accessibility For Screen-Reader Users — An Interview With Liz Hare accessed Dec 13, 2021 ↩︎

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