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Data Carpentry is non-profit organization that develops and provides data skills training to researchers.

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  • 06/28/17--17:00: The Magic of Minute Cards
  • They only take a minute (hence the name: minute cards), but their benefits last a lot longer. During instructor training workshops, we use minute cards to get feedback from learners. They provide formative assessment for the instructors since the cards tell instructors what they are doing well (or not so well) so class teaching can be adjusted accordingly.

    Minute cards can alert instructors to questions and misconceptions that have arisen. They are also useful post-workshop to help instructors reflect on how they teach, and what improvements they might need to make in the future either to the lesson itself, or to how they teach it.

    Importantly, minute cards tell the instructors what they are doing well, and what things learners are excited about, which is very inspiring for an instructor. So, what is it with minute cards?

    What are minute cards?

    Cate Pickens introduced the idea of minute cards to Software Carpentry. The idea is that you have an index card, or your handy green and red sticky notes, and before each break, you ask learners to write ‘one thing you learned or liked’ on one side/on the green note and ‘one thing you’re confused about’ on the other side/on the red sticky note. Minute cards are the ‘ticket’ people turn in before they go out for lunch or leave the workshop. Feedback is hand-written on the notecards/stickies and is meant to be anonymous, since this encourages franker responses. (For online instructor training events, we collect this feedback through a Google form).

    Negative and positive feedback

    How to use minute cards during workshops

    So, you get all this valuable feedback. Now what? With your co-instructor, go through the notes. Pull out the awesome or funny ones and smile. Other notes might have suggestions that can be immediately addressed. For instance, if you see a few notes asking you to slow down, then you have a better understanding of the pace of the room, and it would be a good idea to teach the next part more slowly, with more checking for understanding as you go.

    Once people are back from break, consider taking a few minutes at the start to review whatever learners were confused about. Some notes may raise specific questions. If you see the same question more than once, try to address that question directly. Framing it as ‘many people raised this’ reassures people that they’re not alone with an issue, which helps build their confidence. Sometimes there might be issues that only one person raises, but it’s a fundamental enough concept that is is worth addressing for the class as a whole.

    Where a single question is intertesting but is outside the workshop scope,answer it in the workshop etherpad.

    Overall, minute cards are a great way to make sure you’re on track with your teaching during the workshop. You also get to hear about the things people are excited about learning. Tapping into their enthusiasm keeps your own enthusiasm levels high.

    After the workshop

    Once the workshop is over, we have to switch our attention back to answering all those emails that have piled up over the last two days. However, the notes are still really valuable pieces of information. Here are some ideas for your minute cards:

    • Use the information to inform your personal teaching strategies or style.
    • Add an issue to the lesson that the note references. For instance, if a few people mention things that they wish they had learned, or things that seemed out of order, file an issue on that lesson to let people know this suggestion. This is super helpful for the instructors who will be teaching this lesson after you!
    • Add an issue to a lesson that explains what people liked about the lesson. Knowing what is working well is just as important as knowing what is not working!
    • Share them on Twitter! Tweet a picture of the feedback and tag it @datacarpentry. Of course the positive ones are great, but if a more negative one provides constructive feedback, those are great too!
    • Put the happy sticky notes up on the wall in your office. Remember the positive impact you’re having on people, especially for those days when you get comments back from Reviewer number 3.

    Minute cards are more than just pretty pieces of paper. They’re useful pieces of feedback for you as an instructor and for the community as a whole.

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  • 07/07/17--17:00: Meet the Folks
  • Conferences can be lonely places, especially for first-timers who don’t yet have solid networks in place. The bigger the event, the worse the problem. With so many people milling around, how do you find like-minded people, much less start a conversation?

    The issue can be compounded if you’re in a minority. When you’re from an under-represented group, conferences can seem even more intimidating.

    At the upcoming SciPy 2017, Tracy Teal from Data Carpentry will address that and other issues around inclusivity when she speaks at the Diversity Luncheon on July 13.

    SciPy 2017 will be the 16th Scientific Computing with Python Conference. It aims to advance scientific computing through open source Python software for mathematics, science, and engineering.

    Held from 10-16 July in Austin, Texas, this year’s SciPy has a packed program of tutorials, hackathons, and presentations where participants can showcase projects, learn from skilled users and developers, and collaborate on code development.

    That’s a lot of moving parts for newbies to navigate. To help Software and Data Carpentry people find each other at SciPy, the event has been posted on our meetups page. Some Carpenters have already indicated they’ll be attending and have provided their details. Feel free to add your own details to the list. That way, you can all find each other at the conference. Encourage others attending to sign up too. You can even indicate if you think there should be a more formal Carpentries gathering there.

    If you’re looking to find people in real-time, the Carpentry Slack channel, the Software Carpentry Twitter feed or Data Carpentry Twitter feed are good places to look. Also, feel free to reach out to other people you see on the meetups page before you go to the conference. Knowing there’s at least one friendly face to look for is helpful, and that person might also have good advice on what talks to attend or where the best coffee can be found.

    You can use our meetups page to flag other upcoming events. Think of it as your tool to find people to talk to, and make all your conference-going more productive (and friendlier!)

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    The Carpentry Instructor Training curriculum helps prepare new instructors to teach Carpentry workshops. It also impacts instructors’ teaching practices when they teach in other contexts, helping to spread the Carpentry pedagogical model and evidence-based teaching practices around the world!

    We last published this curriculum in February. Since then, we’ve taught over 150 new instructors at a dozen training events. We’ve also welcomed ten new Instructor Trainers to our community, with fifteen more to join in September.

    We’ve learned a lot over the past six months and want to incorporate what we’ve learned before our next publication (scheduled for August 10th). Please help the Trainer community update these lessons!

    Get involved!

    If you’ve made a contribution to the Instructor Training materials, you’re already an author. Help make sure the final product is polished and complete by getting involved in the lesson release events.

    The Instructor Training Issue Bonanza is starting Thursday, July 13th at 22:00 UTC and will continue until Friday, July 14th 22:00 UTC. Click this link to see the event in your local time.

    How does the lesson release process work?

    Here’s a run-down of the lesson release process and our timetable for this release.

    • Issue Bonanza to identify issues that need to be fixed before publication. July 13-14
    • Staff and maintainers organize issues (e.g. add tags and remove duplicates). July 16-20
    • Bug BBQ to fix issues identified during Issue Bonanza. Aug. 3-4
    • Publish! Aug. 10

    Issues to focus on are in the lesson release checklist. You don’t need to be an expert in the materials - we need people to help search for broken links and typos too!

    If you’re planning on joining the Issue Bonanza - add your name to the event Etherpad.

    We’re excited to work with the community to update these materials. Put these dates on your calendar, and we’ll send out reminders and updates too. These lessons belong to the community - help us keep them great!

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    A new version of the Carpentry Instructor Training curriculum is scheduled to be published on 10 August.

    To prepare for this release, we ran an Issue Bonanza on 13-14 July to identify bugs and issues such as typos and broken links. Now that these issues have been organised into a plan of work, we plan to resolve them with a Bug BBQ on 3-4 August. Help make sure the final product is polished and complete by getting involved.

    How do I help?

    We’ll be gathering online to tackle this project starting at this time: You can see more information about how to get involved in the Bug BBQ on the event Etherpad. Please sign up to let us know you’re coming!

    Why a new release?

    We last published this curriculum in February. Since then, we’ve taught over 150 new instructors at a dozen training events. We’ve also welcomed 10 new Instructor Trainers to our community, with 15 more coming on board in September. We’ve learned a lot over the past six months so we want to incorporate what we’ve learned into our next release. If you’ve ever made a contribution to the Instructor Training materials, you’re already an author, so please come and help us get things straight.

    Why is the material important?

    This curriculum helps prepare new instructors to teach Carpentry workshops. It also impacts instructors’ teaching practices when they teach in other contexts, helping to spread the Carpentry pedagogical model and evidence-based teaching practices around the world!

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    My name is Rachel Smart and I’m a graduate assistant for Digital Research and Scholarship (DRS) at FSU. I was adopted by DRS in mid-March when the Goldstein Library was reamed of its collection. It was devastating for the 2% of the campus who knew of its existence. Bitterness aside, I’m very grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given by the DRS staff who warmly welcomed me to their basement layer; here I’m being swiftly enthralled by the Open Access battle cry. The collaborative atmosphere and constant stream of projects never fails to hold my interest. Which leads me to Data Carpentry

    In May of this year, I met with Micah Vandegrift (boss and King of Extroverts) regarding my progress and the future direction of my work with DRS. He presented me with the task of running a data workshop here in our newly renovated space. Having never organized something this scale before, I was caught off guard. However, I understood the importance and need for data literacy and management trainings here on campus, and I was excited by the prospect of contributing to the establishment of a Data Carpentry presence here at FSU. Micah was kind enough to supply me with a pair of floaties before dropping me into the deep end. He initiated first contact with Deb Paul from iDigBio, a certified Data Carpentry instructor, here on campus and I joined the conversation from there.

    It took a few weeks of phone calls and emails before we had a committed instructor line-up, and we were able to apply for a self-organized Data Carpentry workshop in April. Instructors Matthew Collins, Sergio Marconi, and Henry Senyondo from the University of Florida taught the introduction to R, R visualizations, and SQL portions of the workshop. I was informed that you aren’t a true academic librarian until you’ve had to wrestle with a Travel Authorization form, and I completed them for three different people, so I feel thoroughly showered in bureaucratic splendor. However, the most obstructive item on my multipart to-do list of 34+ tasks was finding the money to pay for food. DRS has an event budget with which we paid the self-hosting fee and our instructors’ traveling expenses, but we were not allowed to use it for food. This delayed the scheduling process, and if it weren’t for the generous assistance from iDigBio, we would have had some very hungry and far fewer attendees. If I were blessed with three magical freebies for the next potential Data Carpentry event, I would use the first to transform our current event budget into food-friendly money, and I would save the other two in case anything went wrong (ex, a vendor never received an order). This may seem overly cautious, but just ask anyone who has had to organize anything. We are perfectly capable of completing these tasks on our own or with a team, but some freebies for the tasks which fall beyond our control would come in handy.

    Workshop photograph

    The event ran smoothly and we had full attendance from the 20 registered attendees. As busy as I was in the background during the event, attendees came up to me and let me know how well the workshop was going. There were also comments indicating we could do things a little differently during the lessons. I think most of the issues that sprung up during the event were troubleshooting software errors and discrepancies in the instructions for some of the lessons, for example, the SQLite instructions were written using the desktop version of the program and not the browser plugin everyone was using. The screen we used to display the lessons and programming demos was the largest we could find, but it was still difficult for some people to see. However, adjustments were made and attendees were able to continue participating.

    The most rewarding element of the experience for me were the resulting discussions among participants during planned collaboration in lessons and unplanned collaboration during breaks and long lunch periods. The majority of our participants have various backgrounds in the Biological Sciences, but as individuals they had different approaches to solving problems. These approaches frequently resulted in discussions between participants about how their various backgrounds and research impacted their relationship with the tools and concepts they were learning at Data Carpentry. On both days of the event, participants came together in our conference room for lunch and rehashed what they had learned so far. They launched into engaging discussions with one another and with DRS staff about the nature of our work and how we can work together on future initiatives. This opportunity to freely exchange ideas sparked creative ideas relating to the Data Carpentry workshops themselves. On the second day, an increased number of participants brought their own project data to work with in workshop exercises.

    The future of Data Carpentry here at FSU looks bright, whether I will be there for the next workshop is unknown. Thank you, Deb Paul, Micah Vandegrift, Emily Darrow, Kelly Grove, and Carolyn Moritz for helping me put this workshop together, and thank you to everyone who participated or contributed in any way.

    This post originally appeared on Rachel’s own blog. We thank Rachel for allowing us to replicate it here.

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    My name is Ivo Arrey and I am a graduate student at the University of Venda, South Africa. I first encountered a Carpentry-style workshop in 2015 when I was still part of the South African Earth Observation Network and its Graduate Student Network (SAEON-GSN) committee that organised the annual Indibano. Like it has been the culture of previous meetings, we usually set aside a slot for a workshop that teaches a new skill to delegates. I had my first encounter to a new way of automating repetitive tasks using Git and Unix Shell which was a mouth-watering experience and later R for new methods of data analysis to explore. Then came the opportunity to attend the instructor training with Software and Data Carpentry in North-West University, Potchefstroom campus which I immediately knew was the best way to consolidate my hands-on for these new skills which I had begun to grapple with for some time now.

    On 15-17 May 2017, we ran a self-organised Data Carpentry workshop at the University of Venda, South Africa, the second of its kind in the institution since my becoming a qualified instructor last year. We had delegates from a range of fields including social sciences, ecology, environmental sciences, auditing, natural sciences and hydrology and water resources. Given that this side of the country is under-represented in the Carpentry community, it was the first time for such an involvement for most of the participants.

    We started out with an introduction to caveats of data analysis in spreadsheets and then to OpenRefine using a data set from ecology. The response to these lessons were generally good. Most of the participants requested more time to digest the material. The last part of day one was spent on introducing some R. During breaks, many people expressed excitement in using these skills with their research data.

    On day two, we started with manipulating and analysing data with dplyr and then later moved to data visualisation with ggplot2. Just like what we experienced in the previous workshop, these two lessons took more time than expected. As a result, we cancelled the lesson on SQL. Like the Carpentries teach in instructor training, it’s more important to be sure learners learn than to cover all the material!

    On day three we had planned to provide the opportunity for participants to bring specific problems related to their research data and later introduce the aspect of community building with a Study Group on campus. This led to the birth of the Univen Study Group which had its very first meetup on 9 June, 2017.

    Our first Study Group meetup was really exciting as we got to hear from people how they have been exploring the newly learned computing skills. However, the bulk of the discussions were centred on establishing our study group repository on GitHub and making house rules. As such, we had a lesson on version control with Git and GitHub for collaboration. At this time, we have agreed to meet every fortnight to share and learn new ideas on doing reproducible research.

    Our journey with the Carpentries has just begun and we are looking to make waves as more members aspire to become qualified instructors in the near future.

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  • 08/02/17--17:00: Work Cycle Phobos Wraps Up
  • We’re wrapping up Cycle Phobos. Here’s what we accomplished over the past six weeks and what we’re still working on. To help with any of these projects, please get in touch!

    Communication around Assessment

    What did we do? Data Carpentry launched new pre- and post-workshop surveys. These surveys include skills-based questions and the ability for respondents to provide a unique identifier so that we can run paired analyses. We are in the process of phasing out the old surveys, and the new surveys have been added to Data Carpentry’s workshop template. An R-Markdown report of our old pre- and post-survey data was drafted during this work cycle. During the next work cycle, the report will be completed and the data archived for our website.

    Additionally, during this work cycle, Kari Jordan completed her analysis of Software Carpentry’s post-workshop surveys. Check out the blog post for more details about this report and the corresponding repo. Jonah Duckles plans to present the results of this report to the 13th IEEE International Conference on eScience in Auckland, NZ, this October.

    Lastly, the Carpentries’ long-term assessment report has been posted on GitHub. During the next work cycle, Kari will lead a small team who will write a formal paper about the results of these analyses.

    How can you help? If you are interested in getting involved with our assessment efforts, you’re invited to join the virtual assessment network Google group.

    Data Carpentry Genomics Lesson Release

    What did we do? To ready the Data Carpentry Genomics lesson for release, we put out a call and were overwhelmed with volunteers. To plan the work, we created guidelines for both lesson maintainers and the lesson advisory committee. Then, to start the work, we ran a mini bug BBQ on the lessons at the recent UC Davis instructor training event. The Genomics lessons are now all in the new workshop template, which involved combining some lessons (and retiring others) to create a coherent curriculum. We now have a Genomics workshop page that links to the appropriate lessons.

    How can you help? We welcome feedback on the changes made. We encourage instructors to teach the lesson and report back on how it went. We welcome further changes and suggestions for improvement.

    Recruit New Trainers

    What did we do? To help meet the ever-growing demand for instructor training, we put out a call for new trainers. From the 39 applications we received, 15 new trainees were accepted. They began their eight-week ‘Train the Trainer’ program in early July and should finish soon. Thanks to the Trainers who helped design the application form and assisted with candidate selection.

    How can you help? We want to keep building our Trainer group. We hope to open a new round of applications sometime between September and December this year. When the call goes out, please help us spread the word. If you are already an instructor, consider becoming a Trainer.

    Open Instructor Training

    What did we do? To try to manage our large backlog of instructor training applicants, we planned four open training events to run through July and August. This will help 82 new trainees get their instructor badges. The four events cover the United States (both western and eastern time zones), Europe and Africa. Despite these big numbers, a backlog still remains. If you are still waiting to train, we have not forgotten you! We hope to run more open training, although these events need to be balanced by the needs of partners and potential partner sites for training. We also have a finite number of Trainers, though numbers are increasing.

    How can you help? We always have more applicants than we can find places for. Accordingly, we have developed a scoring rubric to help us select candidates. If you are interested in helping us select candidates for the next rounds, please get in touch.

    Instructor Training Curriculum lesson release

    What did we do? A working group of trainers and instructors met to plan the August 10 release of the Software and Data Carpentry Instructor Training curriculum. To ready the materials for the release, an Issue Bonanza was held on 13/14 July to identify bugs, issues and broken links. The bonanza yielded a range of issues to be fixed. These have now been assembled into a plan of work, which will be addressed by a Bug BBQ on 3/4 August.

    How can you help? Join us for the Bug BBQ. Help is welcome from interested instructors, trainers and supporters. You don’t have to commit a huge block of time (though you can if you want to). All help is appreciated.

    Our next cycle - Cycle Ganymede - July 31st through September 22nd

    Stay tuned for an announcement of what’s coming up! As always, if there’s something you’re excited about and would like to see, post your idea to our Conversations repo or get in touch.

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  • 08/06/17--17:00: Reflections on Assessment
  • As I approach my one-year anniversary on staff with Data Carpentry, I’m reflecting on what we’ve accomplished this year. I came into this role with no data science experience whatsoever: self-efficacy had been the focus of my doctoral dissertation and post-doctoral work. That background knowledge made for an exciting time exploring our workshop survey data and letting the community know what our learners think about our workshops.

    I’ve come a long way this year, partly because of my ability to transfer learning, but mainly because of our community. Looking back at the first report I wrote about Data Carpentry’s workshop impact, compared to my recent report about the impact of Software Carpentry’s workshops, you’ll see that I’ve learned a lot about using R. For that, I owe thanks to all the community members who responded to my tweets for help, hopped on Zoom calls with me, and contributed to my GitHub repositories. I truly feel that I belong to this community, and am living proof that having a growth mindset can lead to success in whatever field you’re passionate about.

    Thanks to that help from this great community, I was able to develop a long-term assessment strategy that includes the launch of our new skills-based pre- and post-workshop surveys, and our joint Data and Software Carpentry long-term survey.

    Let me stress the importance of our pre- and post-workshop surveys. We know anecdotally that our workshops help learners improve their skills and confidence. We see it when the faces of learners light up during workshops. We hear it during instructor discussion sessions when participants can’t hide their excitement about what they’ve achieved and how much they look forward to teaching. We know that new instructors are fielding requests to run workshops. However, without hard evidence that proves we do indeed enable learners to quickly apply new skills to their daily research practice, we run the risk of missing out on opportunities to effect change in the data science space.

    Survey links have been pre-loaded into Data Carpentry’s workshop template, but we need you, our instructors, to encourage learners to complete those surveys. Even the best-designed survey is useless without responses. So, how can you help?

    • Include the survey links in both your introductory and post-workshop follow-up e-mails.
    • Ask learners to arrive 15 minutes early to complete the pre-survey, and stay a few minutes after to complete the post-survey (This is not ideal, as it doesn’t allow instructors time to calibrate the workshop to attendees’ skill levels, but it is better than nothing).
    • Add the survey links to your workshop Etherpad or Google Doc.
    • Explain how these surveys not only push learners to take responsibility for their own learning, but also help them track their progress towards their learning goals.
    • Tweet the survey links before and after your workshop.

    These are just a few ways you can support our assessment efforts. We also invite you to join the virtual assessment network. We created this network to provide a space for those interested in assessment in data science to collaborate and share resources. We meet quarterly - our next meeting is in November. Check out what we’ve already achieved, and feel free to join us!

    I am very proud of the work we’ve done, and excited about what’s to come. I’d love to hear from you. Tweet your thoughts to @datacarpentry and @drkariljordan.

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    I am happy to announce that the Steering Committees of both Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry have approved 4 motions regarding the structure and leadership of the mergered Carpentries organization. The approved motions are:

    Motion 1

    The Board of Directors for the combined organization will be composed of 9 members, each serving a two year term without limits on the number of terms. Five members will be appointed through a process of nomination to the board followed by voting by board members. The other four members will be elected by the membership of the organization.

    Background: We anticipate that role of the Board is governance / steering rather than execution / operations. Appointed members ensure that the Board has the expertise desired for leading an organization with the legal and financial responsibilities of the combined organization, while elected members continue on the democratic traditions of SWC and allow interested community members to be part of the leadership.

    Motion 2

    The combined organization will have an Executive Director who reports to the Board of Directors. Initially, this position will be offered to Dr. Tracy Teal.

    Background: The ED is the link between the Board and the operations of the organization. The ED will have autonomy to make decisions about running the organization, given strategic direction from the Board.

    Motion 3

    The combined organization will have a Director of Business Development who reports to the Executive Director. Initially, this position will be offered to Jonah Duckles.

    Background: Business development is critical to the long-term sustainability of the organization. In the merger of two organizations, each with an ED, this clarifies roles and reporting.

    Motion 4

    Existing subcommittees and task forces will have a point of contact from among the staff, rather than reporting directly to the Steering Committee.
    Background: The subcommittees perform important work of the organization. They currently report directly to the SWC Steering Committee, which is inconsistent with a Board responsible for governance, not operations. The subcommittee’s should instead work directly with staff, overseen by the ED.

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    A new version of the Carpentry Instructor Training curriculum is scheduled to be published on 10 August.

    To prepare for this release, we ran an Issue Bonanza on 13-14 July to identify bugs and issues such as typos and broken links. Now that these issues have been organised into a plan of work, we plan to resolve them with a Bug BBQ on 3-4 August. Help make sure the final product is polished and complete by getting involved.

    How do I help?

    We’ll be gathering online to tackle this project starting at this time: You can see more information about how to get involved in the Bug BBQ on the event Etherpad. Please sign up to let us know you’re coming!

    Why a new release?

    We last published this curriculum in February. Since then, we’ve taught over 150 new instructors at a dozen training events. We’ve also welcomed 10 new Instructor Trainers to our community, with 15 more coming on board in September. We’ve learned a lot over the past six months so we want to incorporate what we’ve learned into our next release. If you’ve ever made a contribution to the Instructor Training materials, you’re already an author, so please come and help us get things straight.

    Why is the material important?

    This curriculum helps prepare new instructors to teach Carpentry workshops. It also impacts instructors’ teaching practices when they teach in other contexts, helping to spread the Carpentry pedagogical model and evidence-based teaching practices around the world!

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    There’s been a lot of exciting work on the Genomics workshop materials over the past several months. A massive reorganization of the materials is underway, splitting the workshop into two separate tracks - one including R and the other including a variant-calling workflow. A host of folks have volunteered to serve as Maintainers for the revamped lessons, and others have joined a Curriculum Advisory Committee to provide high-level guidance on the workshop as a whole.

    There’s still a lot of work to do! It’s all hands on deck for reorganizing the materials, and making sure they’re up to date and clear before our first Genomics lesson release. Please help out however you can. You don’t need to be a Genomics expert to contribute; we need folks to check for broken links and typos too!

    We’re holding an Issue Bonanza on 31 August to identify bugs and issues such as typos and broken links, followed by a two-day Bug BBQ 18-19 September to clean everything up for publication.

    You can see these events in your local time at the links below. Please save these to your calendar now and stay tuned for more information.

    Issue Bonanza starting time - duration 24 hours
    Bug BBQ date starting time - duration 48 hours

    Looking forward to seeing you there!

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    Only a few more hours until the Genomics Issue Bonanza! Join the community in a hacky-day dedicated to creating issues and simple PRs for cleaning up the Genomics lessons. You don’t need to be an expert in the materials - we need people to help search for broken links and typos too!

    Click here to see the event start in your local time.

    You can find more information, and sign up to participate, on the event Etherpad.

    Please come join the fun and help get the Genomics materials ready for publication!

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  • 08/31/17--17:00: New Trainers On Board
  • Software and Data Carpentry now have a brand-new batch of Trainers. The new Trainers completed their training this week and will start to train new Instructors soon. Adding this new cohort takes us up to 40 in Trainer numbers.

    For those not familiar with our terminology, Trainers are the people who train other people to be Data and Software Carpentry Instructors. This is done through a two-day instructor training course that may be delivered in person or remotely. Trainers are vital to increasing our Instructor numbers, and thus to building our community worldwide.

    The current cohort are from all over - the US, Greece, Thailand, Canada, South Africa, the UK, and the Netherlands - so this will be a great boost for community-building in those countries.

    Welcome aboard Amy Hodge, Anita Schürch, Alexander Konovalov, Danielle Quinn, Elizabeth Wickes, Fotis Psomopoulos, François Michonneau, John Simpson, Juan Steyn, Kwasi Amoako Kwakwa, Martin Dreyer, Paula Andrea Martinez, and Robert Davey.

    We look forward to teaching with you.

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    “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

    Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry are sister organizations focused on teaching computational best practices to scientists. They are currently independent organizations with their own fiscal sponsorship, Steering Committees, governance model, and bank accounts. However, as is perhaps no surprise the organizations’ operations have evolved to share memberships, infrastructure for workshop coordination, an instructor training program, and even some staff members. This ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure has allowed us to build a shared community of instructors with more than 1000 certified instructors and 47 current Member Organizations around the world.

    As Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry continue to grow and develop, this ‘separate but collaborative’ organizational structure will not scale. The governing committees of both Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry have recognized that as more mature organizations they can be most effective under a unified governance model with reduced operational overhead and streamlined support for curriculum development and maintenance. Over the last few months, a joint group of representatives appointed from (and regularly reporting back to) the governing committees of both organizations has been exploring and moving towards merging the governance and staff organizations to officially recognize this shared alignment and vision, and going forward to best support the community, member organizations, and curriculum.

    On August 30, 2017, the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Committees met jointly and approved the following two motions, which together form a strong commitment to continue moving forward with the merger, and to eventually hand off governance to a joint Carpentries Steering Committee:

    • Approve merger of Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry: The Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry steering committees approve the merger of the two organizations into a single umbrella organization with associated lesson organizations, with a starting date of January 1, 2018.
    • Approve appointed members of combined board: We appoint Karen Cranston, Kate Hertweck, Mateusz Kuzak, Sue McClatchy, and Ethan White to the board of the umbrella organization.

    We are now very excited for the next steps in putting together the Carpentries! Even though the two motions passed this week lay the groundwork for a merged organization, there’s still a lot of work to be done on the details of how this will all come together. The two Steering Committees (which remain in command until Dec 31) will be putting together Requests for Comment (, because community input in decisions and structure around everything from governance to curriculum oversight will be key.

    A very brief history of Software and Data Carpentry


    What does this mean for our instructors?

    Software and Data Carpentry have already unified their instructor training to have one Carpentries instructor certification and program. Hence, the instructor training program will continue as it is. People who are already instructors can continue to teach workshops as they already do! Nothing substantive will change. There may be some updates on email list locations, but it will remain the joint Carpentries instructor community that it already is.

    The Carpentries Board of Directors will include elected positions, and instructors will be the electorate casting votes for those, as they have in the past for the Software Carpentry Steering Committee. More information about the elections will be coming out in October. Please also consider running yourself for a position on the Steering Committee to help guiding the Carpentries through this next phase! If you’re interested in more information on elections now, please contact Kate Hertweck (

    What does this mean for our Member Organizations?

    Memberships are already joint between Software and Data Carpentry, so there will be no changes with memberships. All signed, pending and upcoming membership agreements will remain valid and will simply changeover to the Carpentries after January. We will be transitioning the Software Carpentry Advisory Council to a joint Carpentries council, and we will keep members updated on that shift.

    Proposed organizational structure and leadership

    Members of both the Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Committees and staff have been meeting regularly to outline the steps needed for transitioning from two independent organizations to one united organization. The Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry Steering Xommittees have approved the following structure to be effective on January 1, 2018:

    • A single umbrella organization (tentatively named The Carpentries) with associated lesson organizations
    • A governing Board of Directors composed of 9 members (5 appointed, 4 elected), each serving a two year term without limits on the number of terms.
    • An Executive Director who reports to the Board of Directors. Initially, this position will be offered to Dr. Tracy Teal.
    • A Director of Business Development who reports to the Executive Director. Initially, this position will be offered to Jonah Duckles.

    Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry will remain as distinct lesson organizations with their unique brand. Currently, we are articulating the roles and responsibilities of the unified organization and the associated lessons. Below is a brief summary of the responsibilities we propose will fall under the Carpentries and under the lesson organizations.

    Proposed structure and responsibilities of The Carpentries and the Lesson Organizations


    Just in case you are wondering who the current Steering Committee members are and who will be on the 2018 Board of Directors, here’s a table for your reference. (M = Member of the current merger committee that serves as the liaison between the community and the Software Carpentry and the Data Carpentry Steering committees during the planning and execution of the merger.)

    2017 Software Carpentry Steering Committee
    (all elected)
    2017 Data Carpentry Steering Committee
    (all appointed)
    2018 Carpentries Board of Directors
    (5 appointed, 4 elected)
    • Rayna HarrisM
    • Kate HertweckM
    • Christina Koch
    • Mateusz Kuzak
    • Karin Lagesen
    • Sue McClatchy
    • Karen CranstonM
    • Hilmar LappM
    • Aleksandra Pawlik
    • Karthik Ram
    • Ethan White
    • Karen Cranston
    • Kate Hertweck
    • Mateusz Kuzak
    • Sue McClatchy
    • Ethan White
    • to be elected
    • to be elected
    • to be elected
    • to be elected

    Next Steps in the merger

    There are many areas of work to be done before January 1, 2018. Some of the things we are working on include:

    • Articulating the bylaws for the Carpentries
    • Articulating the policy and leadership within each Lesson Organization
    • Posting Requests For Comment on bylaws, structure and policy for community comment, incorporating feedback.
    • Approving a unified budget
    • Launching a new website
    • Electing the 2018 Board of Director members
    • Updating or crafting mission and vision statements
    • And so many more details…

    Questions, comments, want to learn more?

    If you have questions, comments or just want to learn more than what’s already posted here, please get in touch with staff at, Tracy Teal at, Jonah Duckles at, the Software Carpentry Steering Committee president Kate Hertweck at or the Data Carpentry Steering Committee at

    Also, feel free to comment on this post, or start a new conversation at

    Community is and will continue to be a key component in this merger, so comments and discussion are always appreciated!

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  • 09/10/17--17:00: Introducing SherAaron Hurt
  • We are delighted to announce that SherAaron Hurt has accepted the job of Workshop Administrator with the Carpentries. SherAaron is joining our team of workshop coordinators who manage workshop logistics, communicate with hosts and instructors, and respond to general workshop inquiries.

    SherAaron lives in Detroit, Michigan, USA. She has been very active in the National Society of Black Engineers, and has a strong background in logistics, marketing, and training and managing both staff and volunteers. Not only has she planned and run events both large and small, but she has a Masters in hospitality management to back up her experience. She is passionate about Software and Data Carpentry’s mission of teaching foundational computational and data skills to researchers, and is keen to help ‘lighten the load’ for instructors and workshop hosts.

    You’ll be seeing emails from her soon, and you can contact SherAaron at Welcome SherAaron!

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    On 5 September 2017 at 14:00UTC+0, the Lesson Infrastructure Subcommittee had their 2017 September meeting. This post will cover the topics discussed and their resolutions.

    Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry merge

    With the upcoming merge, this subcommittee needs to start thinking about streamlining the thinking process and disconnect from the organisations that maintain the lessons. The responsibilities for this subcommittee will stay unchanged:

    Lesson template, lesson documentation and workshop templatewill have a new home in 2018. If you have questions or want to help with this migration, Christina Koch is the person you should contact.

    During the migration, we will solve the divergences between the Software Carpentry workshop template and Data Carpentry workshop template. If you have questions or want to help with this migration, Tracy Teal is the person you should contact.

    Keyboard key visual look

    To improve the look and feel of the lesson and the learners’ ability to use them, we will make the keyboard keys that need to be pressed by the learner, look different from the other components of the text, so they are highlighted more effectively. We expect to merge the new CSS and documentation in the next few weeks and that release, 2018.6, will contain all of lessons with this new look. More information about this new feature is available at this pull request. Thanks to Brandon Curtis for proposing this idea.

    Jekyll/Liquid include for images/figures

    To improve readability by providing a more uniform image rendering, we will pursue the proposal on GitHub issue styles#161 after we review lessons unit test suite and its use by a continuous integration platform.

    Citing the templates

    If you are using the lesson template and you want to credit us, please use Software Carpentry: Example Lesson at Zenodo.

    Lesson release and hosting scheme

    For years, we have wanted to point learners to the latest release of our lessons but due to technical limitations of GitHub Pages and the challenges of multiple branches for contributors new to Git (for example, the current branch isn’t obvious when you visit the lesson homepage in GitHub, and maintainers can’t change the target branch of a pull request) we stayed with a single gh-pages branch in the Git repository.

    Jonah Duckles opened an issue to discuss possible solutions to this issue. If you want to contribute to the discussion please leave your comments on the GitHub issue.

    Fully-offline-capable functionality in lesson navigation

    vuw-ecs-kevin GitHub user requested that we improve the readers experience, if people come to our lesson from Zenodo, i.e. from one of our releases. Changes on the line of vuw-ecs-kevin’s pull request or Raniere’s pull request will be included in the next release of our lessons.

    Managing workshop websites and install instructions

    This is another old request [1, 2, 3, 4]. Edit only one line of index.html and have the correct setup instructions for the workshop. Jonah Duckles opened a new issue to discuss ideas to resolve our old request.

    Kate Hertweck, Christina Koch, Raniere Silva and Tracy Teal are going to work on strategic plan to address taking into consideration this request taking in consideration the comments on the GitHub issue.

    Next steps

    We will freeze lesson template and lesson documentation in October so maintainers have time to work on the next release.

    The subcommittee will meet again in November to provide an update on some of the topics covered by this post and discuss new requests from the community.


    Thanks to Kate Hertweck, Maneesha Sane, Mark Laufersweiler, Naupaka Zimmerman, Person Paula Andrea Martinez, SherAaron Nicole Hurt and Tracy Teal. Special thanks to Christina Koch for the great notes.

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  • 09/16/17--17:00: Dyslexia and Coding
  • Hello,

    I am dyslexic! :-)

    Dyslexia is a polymorphic condition that affects more than just reading and writing. It is thought to be caused by poor short term memory, where short term memory is about equal to the length of time it takes to turn a key in a lock. A common analogy is that the CPU is good but the buffering on I/O is not good enough to keep up with the CPU. For example, it would be like having a keyboard or scanner with a buffering system that mixed up input or output and sometimes lost characters. This would also make it difficult to rapidly change from reading to writing and explains why doing things like reading, writing, listening, speaking and transcribing at the same time are more difficult for a dyslexic than for a non-dyslexic. I think this can make Software Carpentry a difficult way for a dyslexic to learn how to write programs, as it requires multi-tasking a variety of activities that are separately quite hard for a dyslexic. The rapid switching between them makes this worse.

    On top of this, nearly half of dyslexics have another condition, visual stress, that 10 per cent of non-dyslexics also have. People with this condition do not handle the high contrast of a white background with black text well. While there are indeed fonts that are considered good for dyslexics, they tend to be similar to the Arial and Helvetica fonts, only with slightly more spacing between the letters.

    In my opinion, dyslexics benefit from spending extra time setting up their environment and understanding/documenting what they have done. Setting up an environment means getting everything working technically as well as setting up fonts and background colours to suit their preferences. They will be slow to read and to configure the system on their own, especially if programming is new and they do not understand the vocabulary. If they have to do this at the start of a course, they may well fail to ever catch up with the class. I think they would benefit from being offered help the day or week before to set up their environment.

    Dyslexics are also more likely, especially initially, to like text editors that open up in their own window rather than one that takes over their shell. They are unlikely to remember how to spell things that are in the shell and will have to keep on opening and closing the text editor to get the syntax and spelling right. This will disrupt learning.

    A dyslexic will have to repeat and practice more than a non-dyslexic. They are less capable of surface learning and will need to deep learn. This will take time and they may prefer to work at their own speed and repeat concepts and exercises. It may be good for them to have a summary of what they will learn at the beginning, then do exercises and then get another summary at the end. There is a fair amount of evidence that some dyslexics are not good at multiple choice exercises so self-assessments which have multiple choices are not suitable for them.

    Having one consistent reference text book for an entire programming language may be helpful as this lays out all parts of the language in one place so that the learner can go back and identify areas they do not know over the first few years of using that language and so can gradually fill in the gaps. I have seen some short programs that are the length of a page in a text book that can be used to document the main parts of syntax used in a programming language. These are good references for the main syntax and functionality of a language. The classic example program is a program where the user inputs a radius and the program uses a function or class to calculate the area of the circle with that radius.

    A dyslexic will probably benefit from being able to ask lots of questions and to chat about programming - social learning. They should try to get one or more technical mentors to whom they can go with niggling questions.

    This post initially appeared on our Discuss email list.

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  • 09/17/17--17:00: Genomics Bug BBQ
  • Bug BBQ starting today, Monday, September 18th!

    Be a part of the Genomics Data Carpentry lesson release! We held an Issue Bonanza last month to identify everything from typos to updates in code blocks and had some discussions on broader re-organization. Our next step is to go through and resolve those issues and determine ordering of the lessons.

    To help us get over the finish line we’re having a Bug BBQ September 18th - 19th (whatever this is in your time zone!) to squash as many of these bugs as we can, and continue discussions. The Bug BBQ is also an opportunity for you to engage with our world-wide community. For more info about the event, read-on and visit our Bug BBQ Etherpad.

    What are the Genomics Data Carpentry lessons?

    The Data Carpentry Genomics lessons are the modules of a 2 or 3 day workshop teaching the foundational skills for working effectively with genomics data. The focus of this workshop is working with genomics data, and data management & analysis for genomics research. They cover metadata organization in spreadsheets, data organization, connecting to and using cloud computing, the command line for sequence quality control and bioinformatics workflows, and R for data analysis and visualization. They don’t focus on any particular bioinformatics tools, but the foundational skills that allow you to conduct any analysis.

    See more at the Genomics Workshop Overview page.

    How can you participate?

    The Genomics lessons are going through some updates as they’re being prepared for more teaching. Today is focused on resolving existing issues, but if you find new issues or want to start or continue a discussion, you can start an issue too.

    To contribute:

    If you want help with GitHub or you’re new to GitHub, today is a great day! There will be lots of people on the gitter chat channel, so questions there are great and people are more than happy to help! No previous git experience is required.

    Some more notes on how to contribute

    Where will this be?

    Where will this be? Join in from where you are: No need to go anywhere - you can participate in a global community and open and collaborative lesson development from your desk!

    If you’d like to get together with other people working on these lessons live, let people know where you’ll be participating on the Bug BBQ Etherpad and join the conversation on our gitter channel.

    The Bug BBQ is going to be a great chance to get the community together, get more work done on the Genomics lessons, and prepare to teach more genomics workshops! Work on these lessons also gives you and all our contributors credit for your hard work with a citable object - we will be minting a DOI for this on publication that can go on your CV!

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    At our recent in-person staff meeting in Davis, California, we introduced three new members to the team, SherAaron Hurt, Elizabeth Williams and Karen Word. All will be working with the Carpentries part-time.

    Elizabeth has joined Software and Data Carpentry in a part time role as Business Administrator to assist with onboarding and supporting Member organizations and general business and financial operations.

    Here’s what Elizabeth has to say about herself:

    “After earning a B.S. in Cultural Anthropology at UC Davis, I have worked as a small business manager, a tutor, a bookkeeper, and an organization consultant. I am currently managing the Personality and Self-Knowledge Lab at UC Davis, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to dedicate my (rather eclectic) skills and passions to the exciting and worthy mission of the Carpentries community.”

    Elizabeth has recently joined Twitter where she tweets as @ecwilliams8.

    We are delighted to have Elizabeth join the team and look forward to working with her.

    Karen Word is a post-doctoral researcher in Titus Brown’s lab at UC Davis. As a part of her work in the lab, she is working with the Carpentries on Instructor Training and will be the Deputy Director of Instructor Training. Karen will be involved with many aspects of the instructor training program, including training a new cohort of Trainers (watch for a call for applications soon!). As co-Maintainer of the Instructor Training curriculum (with Christina Koch), Karen will continue to improve and update those materials. She will also be actively involved in other curricular development efforts, including ongoing work on Data Carpentry Genomics and Data Carpentry Social Sciences curricula. Welcome to the team, Karen!

    Karen writes: “I have built a career on roughly equal parts teaching and research, with happy periods of exclusive focus on each. As an educator, I’ve taught high school and community college, at museums and outreach programs, and have served at the university level as both a TA and Associate Instructor. My scientific research has focused on ways in which organisms respond to environmental change, with emphasis on hormone signaling and metabolism. Most recently I have served (and continue to do so) as a postdoc in the Lab for Data Intensive Biology at UC Davis, where I am working on program assessment for our in-house bioinformatics workshops. I am delighted to be able to bring what I’ve learned through all of these experiences to bear on the Carpentries’ mission.”

    Instructor training is a huge part of our outreach effort, and we are delighted to have Karen assisting us with this important work.

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    The Software and Data Carpentry staff teams met for a two-day in-person meeting on 12-13 September in Davis, California. This was a very productive meeting - more on this below - and it also provided some staff the opportunity to meet others face-to-face for the first time. The team is geographically scattered with staff in the US, Australia and New Zealand. At the meeting, we welcomed new Workshop Administrator SherAaron Hurt, Business Administrator Elizabeth Williams, and Deputy Director of Instructor Training Karen Word (all part-timers) to what will be a merged staff team from 2018, when the planned merger of the two Carpentries will be complete.

    While we are a small team, and thus are limited in what we can achieve, we all see our main role as supporting our community. We want to make it easier for people to participate in everything we do in the Carpentries and to allow them to contribute to that work in any way they can. Accordingly, our meeting focused a lot on ways to foster engagement, remove roadblocks, streamline processes, and recognise the valuable work people do, whether it be teaching, organizing workshops, lesson maintenance, mentoring, or serving on task forces and sub-committees.

    The Software and Data Carpentry team

    L-R: Karen Word, SherAaron Hurt, Tracy Teal, Kari Jordan (on computer screen), Erin Becker, Maneesha Sane, Elizabeth Williams, Belinda Weaver, Jonah Duckles.

    Our Agenda

    On our agenda for the meeting were a number of issues:

    • Onboarding new staff
    • Aligning our daily work with the mission and vision of the Carpentries
    • Identifying essential infrastructure, processes and projects we need to build or improve in order to continue to scale
    • Progressing work in key areas such as instructor training, CarpentryCon, mentoring and memberships
    • Learning about strategic planning and project management and how to apply those techniques to what we do
    • Building communication strategies for the team as a whole
    • Updating staff roles and projects

    We also discussed the burning question of swag, so stay tuned for a whole host of innovations there.

    While all this might have seemed like an ambitious plan of work for two days, we frequently split into small groups so we could address issues concurrently. While one group worked on membership planning, another broke ground on planning for CarpentryCon.


    Plans for CarpentryCon are now progressing well. Five venue bids have been received, and we have established a CarpentryCon Trello board to plan all aspects from speakers and sponsors to programs and itineraries. Some suggested topics from the meeting were ‘How the Carpentries got me here’ and ‘Using Carpentry skills in other contexts’. We also plan to have a Community Building Roundtable to build on the Champions work we have done recently in fostering local community building. Ideas for CarpentryCon can be lodged here.

    Mentoring groups

    Plans are underway to launch a new round of mentoring groups. The first round aimed to help new instructors find their feet through regular discussions with more experienced community members. We plan to do the same thing for round two of the groups, but we also aim to offer different flavours of mentoring. Those who want help to get their first workshop under their belt will still find a group, but we might offer support for people who would like to be lesson maintainers or developers, or workshop organizers rather than instructors, or those seeking advice and support to build local communities. Expect a blog post calling for applications when the new program kicks off.

    Recognition and Reward

    Valuing our community was also a key topic. From feedback we have, people in our community are happy to be working with us, and they value the chance to learn, to develop, and to belong. While we like to draw people in, we do not want to burn people out, so we discussed ways we can recognize and reward the considerable effort volunteers put in to teaching, mentoring, maintaining lessons, and serving on committees. We also discussed how we can keep involved, if we can, the people who train as instructors but never go on to teach for us.

    Staff Development

    To try to improve our own team project and planning skills, we heard from Melanie Nelson of Beyond Managing, who walked us through a range of strategic planning topics. We plan to employ her advice in organizing further work cycles and projects.

    Enhancing our work on equity/inclusion was a topic for day two. Hurricane Irma played havoc with Kari Jordan’s plan to present this material in person, but she connected via zoom whenever she could, which was a challenge in a town without power. We discussed three main issues in depth:

    1. How do we ensure that our instructors are philosophically on board with our equity and inclusion principles?
    2. How can we reach out to a more diverse range of institutions?
    3. How do we ensure we do not use idiomatic language that makes our messages hard to understand?


    We brainstormed infrastructure needs to identify things that would make our supporters’ lives easier. An all-in-one ‘workshop in a box’ tool was one suggestion. Better workshop reporting and metrics was another. An anonymous feedback mechanism was also proposed. Reducing time-wasting data entry and duplication was seen as important for efficiency, while more consistency across messaging was also marked as important.


    It was a very productive two days. Here are some positive comments from staff who attended:

    • Got some great ideas and plans set up for CarpentryCon
    • Getting to know all our new staff members!
    • Good conversations around instructor training
    • I got to know more about who does what

    Who was at the meeting?

    • Tracy Teal, Executive Director (DC)
    • Jonah Duckles, Executive Director (SWC)
    • Erin Becker, Associate Director (DC) & Director of Instructor Training (SWC/DC)
    • Belinda Weaver, Community Development Lead (SWC/DC)
    • Maneesha Sane, Program Manager (SWC/DC)
    • Kari L. Jordan, Deputy Director of Assessment (DC) (attending remotely)
    • Elizabeth Williams, Business Administrator (SWC/DC)
    • SherAaron Hurt, Workshop Administrator (SWC/DC)
    • Karen Word, Deputy Director of Instructor Training (SWC/DC)

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