rOpenSci’s Model for Managing a Federated Open Source Software Community


International useR! 2021 conference talk on our unique model of community engagement to support the complex needs of users and developers in the rOpenSci community. Co-created by Stefanie Butland, Karthik Ram, Lou Woodley.


rOpenSci hosts over 350 staff- and community-contributed R packages. We have evolved a unique model of community management to support the complex needs of people who develop, review, and use these packages.

The Community Participation Model from the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement provides a framework to assess how community members interact with programs and each other. The four modes on a continuum are: Convey/Consume; Contribute; Collaborate; Co-create. Engagement among rOpenSci community members happens primarily in the first three modes. 1) Convey/Consume. One-way dissemination of information via a newsletter, and Community Contributing Guide that helps people match their motivations and skills to different ways to contribute. 2) Contribute. Opportunities for members to share knowledge e.g. via our package development guide, and blog posts written by members that draw attention to their work. 3) Collaborate. Scaffolded activities where members work together e.g. in open software peer-review as authors, reviewers, or editors. Additional programming, such as community calls, provides opportunities for multiple modes of participation at once e.g. by collaborating on developing topics and presenting, contributing by sharing resources and questions and consuming by attending presentations or reading the recaps.

Strong social facilitation by a full-time community manager and a team that values trust-based relationships supports community members in modes 1 - 3. We have recently explored what might be required to provide more opportunities for co-creation - mode 4 in the CSCCE Community Participation Model. An interviews-based assessment of community needs and audit of current programming aims to help us understand what people get from the rOpenSci community that they can’t get elsewhere, and how we can best facilitate productive and valuable collaboration and co-creation. We’ll present the results of this work as a methodology for others to consider how to review their own community engagement activities.

Stefanie Butland
Community Manager in STEM

science & tech community manager sharing the value of welcome, a people-connector, knowledge-sharer, scientist