Carpentry For Everyone

Update: this post from Terry McGlynn says a lot of important things about the relationship between high-status and low-status universities, the mistaken perceptions people at the former often have about the latter, and the negative effects of those misperceptions.

When Brent Gorda and I started Software Carpentry back in 1998, we weren’t trying to change the world: we just wanted to pay our bills. In the years since, though, science has slowly started to acknowledge how deeply unfair it is to women, people of color, and many others, and I’d like to think that Software Carpentry has been on the right side of this fight.


The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education divides PhD-granting universities in the US into three categories (usually called R1, R2, and R3). As near as I can tell, these were the stats on where Software Carpentry and Data Carpentry workshops had run as of August 2017 broken down by institution type:

CategoryNumber of InstitutionsNumber of WorkshopsPercentage

I’m sure I’ve mis-ascribed some workshops, but the result is clear: a workshop is five times more likely to happen at an R1 than at an R2, and forty times more likely than at an R3, despite the fact that the majority of students in the US are at R2 and R3 institutions. I don’t have numbers for other countries, but I’d be amazed if the breakdown was significantly different.

I have decided not to run for a seat on the joint Carpentry board this year, but I would like to ask those who do to make improving these figures a priority. Software Carpentry was created to make research computing skills accessible to everyone; in these difficult times, nothing would make me prouder than seeing the organization I helped start continue to do that.

In the wake of posts about Shopify's support for white nationalists and DataCamp's attempts to cover up sexual harassment
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