By Aisha Tepede

Science relies more and more on software and computing technologies, but researchers often don’t receive the training they need to effectively use these tools. A worldwide organization called The Carpentries is trying to help with hands-on training that is developed and taught by a community of volunteer experts.

Since 2012, the organization has run 3,799 workshops in 68 countries and trained 4,108 instructors. Moreover, they have had the ability to deliver 35 collaboratively developed, open lessons to 95,000 novice learners for at least 110 member sites. The organization has since been a pillar for a global and inclusive community in order to provide and teach coding and data skills. The Carpentries clusters its instructional content into three brands: Software Carpentry, Data Carpentry, and Library Carpentry.

To build the community at local and regional levels, The Carpentries are helping to facilitate subgroups in geographic areas. The Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub (MBDH) co-leads the Midwest Carpentries Community (MCC), which is open to all in the 12-state region, regardless of institutional affiliation.

The MCC began as a proposal from Dr. Sarah Stevens at the University of Wisconsin to the MBDH Community Development and Engagement (CDE) Program, which incubates new community initiatives.

Through monthly meetings and other activities, MBDH and the MCC members showcase The Carpentries instructors and best practices at academic institutions and other organizations, and provide a welcoming venue to develop collaborative efforts toward building regional capacity for The Carpentries instructors at smaller and underresourced institutions in 12 Midwest states.

The MCC strives to foster a community of practice to facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration. It will be developing a centralized website to coordinate trainings and subject-matter workshops, and will be using mentoring programs to empower community members to act as hosts and instructors. The organization provides an interpersonal network through connections with other institutions, both domestically and internationally. Sarah Stevens stated,

“The project aims to build ‘hands-on data science instruction capacity,’ by using the existing curriculum and workshop model of The Carpentries, which includes communities of instructors, trainers, maintainers, helpers, and supporters who share a mission to teach foundational computational and data science skills to researchers.”

“Our partnership with Sarah and the University of Wisconsin has been very successful,” said John MacMullen, Executive Director of the MBDH. “In 2023, we plan to continue our monthly community calls as a part of The Carpentries new regional communities initiative. We will also open our Carpentries membership to underresourced institutions that want to train new instructors and establish new Carpentries activities.”

The MCC meets on the last Monday of each month. The Carpentries also has a Slack community that features a Midwest community channel for ongoing discussions and networking.

Get Involved

The MCC is supported by the National Science Foundation through the MBDH Community Development and Engagement (CDE) Program.

Contact the Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub if you’re aware of other people or data science education projects we should profile here, or to participate in any of our community-led Priority Areas. The MBDH has a variety of ways to get involved with our community and activities.

The Midwest Big Data Innovation Hub is an NSF-funded partnership of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Indiana University, Iowa State University, the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, and the University of North Dakota, and is focused on developing collaborations in the 12-state Midwest region. Learn more about the national NSF Big Data Hubs community.