Grassroots organizing isn’t enough to achieve meaningful change. Sooner or later you need people in the room, on the committee, to get what you want on the agenda and then vote for it. Without that, you will always be working around or against the rules instead of having the rules work for you.

In the past I’ve suggested that open science groups should start offering leadership training to prepare their members to run for elected positions in organizations like the American Physical Society and the Ecological Society of America. Nobody’s been willing to back that, but there’s another, less direct approach that could be equally effective.

Everyone from the NRA to the ACLU sends questions to people running for public office and publish scoresheets ranking the candidates based on their responses and their legislative track record. What if an open science organization (or a group of them) did that for people who are running for the executive or boards of various research societies? Questions could include:

  • What specific steps will you take to ensure that people developing research software are given institutional recognition for their work?

  • What changes to the society’s model curriculum will you push for relating to open data, open science, and reproducible research?

  • What will you do to increase diversity and inclusivity within the society?

Just asking the questions puts the issues on the agenda, and publishing the responses (with or without a scoring or ranking) will get even more attention. I think it would be a low-cost, low-risk way to reward people who care about open science, reproducible research, and recognition for all the work people do (not just the papers they publish).

More importantly, I think it would encourage younger people to run for office. I’ve been telling myself for almost twenty-five years that we just need to be patient—that sooner or later the generation that’s grown up believing in open will find themselves in positions of power and make the changes we need. I’m tired of waiting, and if the politics of the last five years have taught us anything, it’s that progress isn’t inevitable. If we want a better world, we need to build it. Asking the people who want to lead us whether they’re going to do that or not seems like a good first step.

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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