In light of the foregoing discussion on social media after publication of the NumPy paper in Nature and the concerns raised about the state of diversity and inclusion on the NumPy team, we would like to issue the following statement:
It is our strong belief that we are at our best, as a team and community, when we are inclusive and equitable. Being an international team from the onset, we recognize the value of collaborating with individuals from diverse backgrounds and expertise. A culture where everyone is welcomed, supported, and valued is at the core of the NumPy project.
Contributing to open source has always been a pastime in which most historically marginalized groups, especially women, faced more obstacles to participate due to a number of societal constraints and expectations. Open source has a severe diversity gap that is well documented (see, e.g., the 2017 GitHub Open Source Survey and this blog post).
Since its inception and until 2018, NumPy was maintained by a handful of volunteers often working nights and weekends outside of their day jobs. At any one time, the number of active core developers, the ones doing most of the heavy lifting as well as code review and integration of contributions from the community, was in the range of 4 to 8. The project didn’t have a roadmap or mechanism for directing resources, being driven by individual efforts to work on what seemed needed. The authors on the NumPy paper are the individuals who made the most significant and sustained contributions to the project over a period of 15 years (2005 - 2019). The lack of diversity on this author list is a reflection of the formative years of the Python and SciPy ecosystems.
2018 has marked an important milestone in the history of the NumPy project. Receiving funding from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation allowed us to provide full-time employment for two software engineers with years of experience contributing to the Python ecosystem. Those efforts brought NumPy to a much healthier technical state.
This funding also created space for NumPy maintainers to focus on project governance, community development, and outreach to underrepresented groups. The diversity statement written in mid 2019 for the CZI EOSS program grant application details some of the challenges as well as the advances in our efforts to bring in more diverse talent to the NumPy team.
Offering employment opportunities is an effective way to attract and retain diverse talent in OSS. Therefore, we used two-thirds of our second grant that became available in Dec 2019 to employ Melissa Weber Mendonça and Mars Lee.
As a result of several initiatives aimed at community development and engagement led by Inessa Pawson and Ralf Gommers, the NumPy project has received a number of valuable contributions from women and other underrepresented groups in open source in 2020:
- Melissa Weber Mendonça gained commit rights, is maintaining numpy.f2py and is leading the documentation team,
- Shaloo Shalini created all case studies on numpy.org,
- Mars Lee contributed web design and led our accessibility improvements work,
- Isabela Presedo-Floyd designed our new logo,
- Stephanie Mendoza, Xiayoi Deng, Deji Suolang, and Mame Fatou Thiam designed and fielded the first NumPy user survey,
- Yuki Dunn, Dayane Machado, Mahfuza Humayra Mohona, Sumera Priyadarsini, Shaloo Shalini, and Kriti Singh (former Outreachy intern) helped the survey team to reach out to non-English speaking NumPy users and developers by translating the questionnaire into their native languages,
- Sayed Adel, Raghuveer Devulapalli, and Chunlin Fang are driving the work on SIMD optimizations in the core of NumPy.
While we still have much more work to do, the NumPy team is starting to look much more representative of our user base. And we can assure you that the next NumPy paper will certainly have a more diverse group of authors.
We are fully committed to fostering inclusion and diversity on our team and in our community, and to do our part in building a more just and equitable future.
We are open to dialogue and welcome every opportunity to connect with organizations representing and supporting women and minorities in tech and science. We are ready to listen, learn, and support.
Sayed Adel, Sebastian Berg, Raghuveer Devulapalli, Chunlin Fang, Ralf Gommers, Allan Haldane, Stephan Hoyer, Mars Lee, Melissa Weber Mendonça, Jarrod Millman, Inessa Pawson, Matti Picus, Nathaniel Smith, Julian Taylor, Pauli Virtanen, Stéfan van der Walt, Eric Wieser, on behalf of the NumPy team