Leadership Skills for Open Science

Because “better” never happens on its own.


Many people in open communities have technical knowledge, enthusiasm, and good intentions, but no experience engineering structural change in organizations. Pushing through changes to the curriculum, nurturing a user group that can sustain itself, and removing bias from hiring practices all require skills that most scientists and programmers have never learned. Fortunately, we do not have to invent these skills ourselves: many groups before us have made the kinds of changes we now seek and can teach us how to be more effective.


We propose a four-day workshop. In the first three days, participants rotate through six half-day training sessions; on the final day they work in small groups to plan their next steps. The topics listed below give the flavor of the workshop topics; the final list would be put together in consultation with community leaders and the participants themselves:

Participants would be selected based on:

  1. A previously-demonstrated commitment to inclusive open communities.
  2. Career stage: we would give preference to people who are likely to be able to act on what they learn in the 1-2 years following the workshop.
  3. Reach: we would give preference to people who live and work outside existing hotbeds of open activity.


Many people share a vision of a better kind of open: one that is inclusive and effective. The more skills they have for organizing and leading, the sooner that vision will be realized.


  1. Each instructor would teach for half a day (either morning or afternoon) and have the other half of the day off for three consecutive days.
  2. Each class would have 20 participants at a time, so the entire workshop would have 60 participants.
  3. The budget assumes $6,000 for 3 days of training plus $2,000 in expenses per instructor.
  4. Most organizing will be done by volunteers, but the budget includes 20 days of paid support staff time as well.
  5. Participants will be charged $500 and will be required to cover their own travel and accommodation costs as well as breakfast and dinner.
  6. One third of participants will be offered partial financial support and will not be charged registration.
Item Each Number Total
Venue (per day) $1,500 4 $6,000
Instructors $8,000 6 $48,000
Lunch/snacks (per person per day) $30 4 × 60 $7,200
Support/admin staff (per day) $500 20 $10,000
Travel scholarships $800 20 $16,000
Registration fee (per person) - $500 40 - $20,000
Total $67,200

I think a workshop like this is a logical and necessary follow-on to things like the Carpentries’ instructor training and the AAAS community engagement program. Almost without exception, we think and act as if we’re always going to be outside the room where decisions are made, waving our placards or trying to get someone’s attention long enough to explain that better is possible and we’re already built it and could they please give it a try. If we truly want a better world, we need to be inside the room when the vote is called.

Training like this is, I believe, a necessary step toward getting advocates of openness elected to school boards and city councils and professional societies. Creationists, gunaholics, fossil fuel addicts, and anti-choicers have been doing it for many years to great effect; do we really care so much less about our issues that we’re not willing to do it too?