Creating an OBF-wide Code of Conduct

Among the core values shared across the OBF community are inclusiveness and welcoming newcomers to contribute, without discrimination. Every year at BOSC, when we ask who is at BOSC for the first time, about half of the audience’s hands go up. To signify the importance of this, both to existing and prospective community members, BOSC successfully advocated several years ago for ISMB to adopt a Code of Conduct by ISMB (which applies to BOSC when it is held as part of ISMB). In the near future, OBF plans to adopt an Affiliated Project Policy to provide a transparent and documented mechanism for other open-source projects to formally join the OBF umbrella. To ensure that our larger community supports our core values, a project wishing to join will have to have, or adopt, a Code of Conduct (CoC) aligned with ours. This means that we need to document what our OBF-wide CoC is, i.e., the expectations in conduct that we want to hold ourselves accountable to across our member projects and their communities, whether at BOSC or not.

This is in fact not the first time an official CoC has been requested outside the context of BOSC from within our project communities. Interest has been expressed both within member projects (such as Biopython), and in-person at our public board meeting at BOSC 2019. We have now begun an initiative to create, and ultimately get adopted, a Code of Conduct covering both our in-person events (BOSC, CoFest, GSoC meetings, etc) and our online activities (mailing lists, GitHub threads, Gitter conversations, etc), including those of our current and future member projects. We invite our community to engage and provide feedback.

Thanks to the work of many other open-source communities, we don’t have to start from scratch. Specifically, having reviewed multiple existing CoC documents, one strong candidate for us is The Carpentries Code of Conduct. Another one might be rOpenSci’s.

The OBF would provide member projects and BOSC with a somewhat external CoC point of contact for reporting and tracking any issues, and ensure training as needed. Any new member project would be able to take advantage of this CoC automatically applying to their work and interactions.

We welcome suggestions for how to best handle any CoC violation against the OBF board itself, such as a reciprocal arrangement with another society. The Carpentries has a designated ombudsperson in this role.

When we hold joint meetings with other organizations (such as BOSC with ISMB or Galaxy) we would expect that a single Code of Conduct is explicitly selected, and applied to the conference. 

We are inviting feedback on this GitHub issue, or email privately to the board (, by December 1st, allowing time to put a draft CoC to formal approval at the OBF public board meeting on December 17, 2019, and then OBF member approval by ballot, followed by adoption by the member projects.