2022-09-22 23:00:00 +0000

reviewing 6 months with The Turing Way project

This was originally posted on a Github discussion, which can be found there. There may be typos in this post, as is inevitable when blogging in such an informal format! I have done my best to add edits here.

Reviewing 6 months with The Turing Way

It’s hard to believe that 6 months have flown by: my first as Community Manager of The Turing Way. During this first push of Community Research, I’ve aimed to learn about three parts of the project, asking underlying questions that I hoped would enable me to get more familiar with the community, with The Turing Way project, and the norms/values/networks that enable its creation! As I’ve said in other spaces: I come from different parts of the open ecosystem, so it’s been really important to come to this space as a newcomer, to learn more about how what exists and how things are done first before seeing where things could be improved, helped, or brought forward.

With these questions in mind, I’ll do a quick review of what I’ve learned so far.

The Turing Way is evolving as a project, and this evolution requires different structures in order to sustain it moving forward (and acknowledge the power that it now has within the wider space).

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The Turing Way started in 2019 as the brain child of Dr. Kirstie Whitaker with her closest allies (within the Alan Turing Institute and in academic institutions around the world), in response to the crisis of reproducibility within science. TTW began as a Guide for Reproducibility. As the project grew into its second phase with Dr. Malvika Sharan, allyships and partnerships began within the wider open science ecosystem, and alongside it, a growth in the number of guides as well. This also coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, and digital-first ways of working and collaborating online. Core contributing events for The Turing Way community, like Book Dashes and Collaboration Cafes went completely online: enabling more people to connect and contribute to the project in ways that hadn’t been previously possible. The

My arrival onto the team signals a few shifts, within both the project, and the wider landscape of open:

With all these things in mind, a couple of things are emerging to both document and address these shifts with The Turing Way as a community and a project:

Balancing the creativity of emergence with the structure required of formalisation is difficult, and while contributions happen in many spaces and in many ways, the book remains the core of the project

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I’ve learned a lot about what contribution looks like within The Turing Way: split between asynchronous writing processes, and condensed periods of time called book dashes. In May 2022, I participated in my first book dash: which is a condensed period of writing like a wikipedia ‘edit-a-thon’, but for The Turing Way.

I’ve also learned about the many ways in which folks are a part of the project that go beyond writing chapters: from giving talks, to being involved in the technical infrastructure behind the project, to translating resources into languages outside of the default English (in the context of the project), and giving workshops. Balancing both is important, to leave room for emergence within a structured event.

A couple of key learnings in this direction:

There are many types of contributors to The Turing Way, and I haven’t necessarily spoken to all of them.

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There are many different types of people who are a part of The Turing Way community (which itself has very loose boundaries with the wider world of open science). I haven’t spoken to many different types of personas within The Turing Way, a few being:

  1. The Lurkers: I say ‘lurkers’ with the utmost respect and admiration, as an avid lurker of many different spaces! These could be folks who are a part of the wider open science ecosystem who are aware of The Turing Way project, graduate students who may know about The Turing Way but may not know where to begin, or other folks who might have heard about the project, but are not sure about joining.
  2. Non-open science folks: what keeps you from joining the community of people within open science?
  3. More about people who are invisible within the community, and folks who haven’t necessarily felt empowered to contribute to the project as is. I’m talking about the lurkers,
  4. National-specific networks: bit by bit, I’ve learned about the nationally-specific networks that sustain open science work in different contexts. National research institutions and funding bodies like UKRI in the UK & others are specific to the national context of the UK, and may not apply elsewhere.

Community Management for The Turing Way takes on particular forms (depending on the stage), and right now it requires a cluster of different skills

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I recently made a map of the different types of skills that seemed to be required by a Turing Way community manager, which may (or may not apply) in other contexts. I wonder what it would look like for other contexts - as The Turing Way operates more like an open source CM, rather than a scientific community manager.

Informal networks are important for open science, and projects like The Turing Way (and its peer groups)

If there’s anything that I’ve learned about the many grassroots communities that work in open science, it is that this world is full of interpersonal connections: people who have worked alongside and with each other in a variety of contexts: whether in labs, companies, cooperatives, conferences, computational communities, and many other environments.

This is extremely important, because it means that these networks have enabled and been able to push for change in certain environments because of the strength of these connections.

This of course could lead to other issues, where interpersonal relationships dominate how institutions themselves operate, creating highly political environments rather than meritocratic collaborations.

I have a lot of learning to do about my own process and ways of working out in the open.

I’ve learned a lot about what motivates folks to get involved with open science, and what projects have emerged in its wake. In the process, I’ve also learned a lot about what motivates myself: and what I do that is and is not open: despite being an “open community manager”.

I’ll be continuing to work on how to make my own process as open as possible, without falling subjet to the same traps of openness as a means of contributing to self-surveillance, or openness as a means of contributing to openness for openness’ sake (and not as a means to an ends).

This has lead to a couple of initiatives that will be ongoing throughout Autumn 2022: