Leadership Training for Open Science

Many people in various open science communities have technical skills and good intentions, but no experience engineering structural change in organizations. Updating curriculum guidelines to make room for data science training, nurturing a regional R user group that can sustain itself, removing bias from hiring practices, and convincing politicians and business leaders to base policy on the best available evidence all require a set of skills that most data scientists have never been taught.

Fortunately, we don’t have to invent these skills ourselves. Many groups before us have managed to make the kinds of changes we now seek, and can teach us how to be more effective. I would therefore like to see a three-day workshop, during which participants rotate through six half-day training sessions followed by half a day of open discussion and planning. The topics for the training sessions would include things like:

  • Marketing for scientists (e.g., Kuchner’s book of the same name) so that they learn how to match what they want with what people think they need.

  • Strategies for institutional change (e.g., Manns & Rising’s Fearless Change) so that they will have a toolbox for acting on what they know.

  • How to be an effective ally (e.g., Aurora’s workshop on ally skills) so that they know how to use their power and influence to support people who are targets of discrimination.

  • Improv (e.g., Holmes’ workshop on communicating science) so that they will be better able to think on their feet.

  • Personal digital security (e.g., the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s materials on surveillance self-defense), because online harassment is unfortunately a fact of life for anyone trying to make the world a better place.

  • Community organization (e.g., Brown’s book Building Powerful Community Organizations) to help people learn how to build an effective grassroots organization.

Participants would be selected based on:

  • Previously-demonstrated commitment to growing an inclusive data science community.

  • Career stage: we’d give preference to people who are likely to be able to act on what they learn in the 1-2 years following the workshop.

  • Reach: we’d give preference to people who live and work outside regions that are already hotbeds of open science.

So how much would this cost?

Item Each Number Total
Venue (per day) $1,500 3 $4,500
Instructors $8,000 6 $48,000
Lunch/snacks (per person per day) $30 3 x 60 $5,400
Swag (per person) $20 60 $1,200
Support staff (per day) $500 20 $10,000
Travel scholarships $500 20 $10,000
Registration fee (per person) - $300 60 - $18,000
Total $61,100

The budget per instructor assumes $6,000 for 3 days of training plus $2,000 in expenses. I expect that most organizing would be done by volunteers, but have included 20 days of paid support staff time as well. Participants would be charged $300 (mostly to reduce no-shows) and would be required to cover their own travel and accommodation costs as well as their own breakfasts and dinners. This budget assumes that a third of participants would need some support in order to be able to attend. The actual figure could well be higher, particularly if we wanted to concentrate on helping people in underserved areas.

I don’t know how much difference a workshop like this would make in the grand scheme of things. I do know that if I’d known more about these topics eight years ago, I would have accomplished a lot more in those years.

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