NumFOCUS is pleased to announce the launch of our Contributor Diversification & Retention Research Project funded by a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. 

“We were eager to support NumFOCUS’s diversity initiative because it aims to get to the heart of what is preventing greater participation in data science. We are hopeful that this project’s careful, analytical approach will uncover specific ways for the data science community to improve its practices, become more welcoming, and improve the quality of science as a result.”

Jon Kaye, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation

The impact of this critical research will be felt by all NumFOCUS projects as we take an active step to address the lack of underrepresented groups contributing to foundational open source scientific computing projects. Managing the program will be NumFOCUS’s new Developer Advocate, Arliss Collins: “Building diverse, inclusive communities is essential for the growth of open source software projects. I’m excited to be leading this grant with a focus toward understanding the demographics of our contributor communities and discovering opportunities to broaden contributor outreach.” Arliss will be assisted by NumFOCUS Communications and Marketing Manager Walker Chabbott and Quantitative Research & Survey Consultant, Abdul Coulibaly.

Currently, most NumFOCUS-supported open source projects lack baseline data about the demographics of their contributor communities and many do not have formal policies or procedures with regards to new contributor onboarding and retention. NumFOCUS project maintainers often say that while they wish their project community were more diverse, they are not sure what they can do to achieve this goal. Our community members put it best:

The end goal of writing software is not code. It’s to create something that actually satisfies the needs of users or customers. Doing that requires knowing those needs. No one, on their own, can know how every user’s individual situation will interact with the software. We believe that diversity, resulting from inclusive culture, is intrinsically good for the project. The best way to satisfy all users is for the team to be inclusive along many axes, benefitting from different experiences and perspectives.” 

Bryan Van de ven, Bokeh

“To ensure the long-term health of the SunPy community, we’re looking for ways to convert more of our infrequent contributors into long-term contributors. We’d greatly appreciate any guidance that NumFOCUS can provide about how to build a larger, and more diverse, community of contributors, and how to convert more of our existing contributors into long-term contributors.”

Monica Bobra, SunPy

The project aims to implement initiatives that will lay the groundwork for understanding which practices and metrics tend to impact a project’s success in attracting and retaining underrepresented contributors. The ultimate goal of this work is to improve diversity and inclusion within NumFOCUS project contributor communities and to share the outcomes with the wider open source community. 

The project will be completed within 2 years and produce the following outcomes:

  • Report on baseline diversity demographics among NumFOCUS contributor communities (Year 1)
  • Report on historical community practices and metrics that are correlated with the ability to attract and retain underrepresented contributors (Year 1)
  • Preliminary recommendations on best practices around diversity & inclusion for project leaders, to be distributed to the wider open source community (Year 2)

Additional funding will be sourced after completion of this project to do a deeper dive into testing the best practices and developing a peer mentoring and leadership training program for scientific open source project leaders. That funding might come in the form of a grant from a philanthropic institution, from revenues generated directly by NumFOCUS, or through corporate sponsorship.

If you wish to make a donation to support NumFOCUS’s End of Year Giving Campaign, which helps fund programs like this, please follow this link to donate.