Executive Summary

This paper synthesizes data we collected in an Astropy community engagement survey. We focus on four research questions to better understand:

  1. the composition of the Astropy community,
  2. avenues for participation among Astropy members,
  3. suggestions for streamlining communication channels in the community and
  4. ways to increase participation

Community Composition

The majority of people who responded to the survey are professional astronomers with a concentration of respondents in North America. The population skews towards early to mid career astronomers. Forty percent of the respondents have been involved with Astropy for between 5-10 years.

Participation in Astropy

  • Respondents speak about Astropy as a high quality, well documented open software product that they find useful in their work.
  • Respondents liked that the community was friendly, welcoming and that there was a culture of constructive feedback and support. They describe the leadership as transparent and well organized.
  • Respondents engage with Astropy primarily via GitHub, documentation, educational materials and through using Astropy software in their work.

Communication Channels

  • Astropy’s community describe the online forums as the place where they get answers to questions and stay up to date with technical updates on Astropy.
  • They describe the online forums such as Slack and Facebook as an alternative to GitHub issues and they commented on the benefit of seeing the technical development as well as finding new use cases for the software.
  • When asked what would improve the forums, respondents discussed the fragmentation in the Astropy forums between users and developers.
  • Discourse was generally seen as less active, while opinions on Slack, Facebook, Bluesy and Twitter varied.
  • Notably, we see a number of respondents who did not know that Slack or Facebook forums exist in the Astropy community.
  • Respondents asked for searchable community forums, and clear directions new community members.

Improving Participation

  • When asked what people would change about Astropy, respondents said they wanted to make contributions to the community easier, specifically development of new tools.
  • Some suggested improved standards for documentation and more support for non-Astropy software.
  • We saw comments about code quality and maintenance, support for educational resources and early career astronomers.
  • When asked what were the barriers to contributing to the community, respondents discussed feeling intimidated by Git, the complexity of the software and the amount of technical skill that’s needed to contribute as well as simply knowing where to start to make a contribution.
  • Some also talked about the challenge of being able to consider contributions to Astropy as being a valuable part of their career. Some brought up the ability to learn how to engage with the Astropy community as well as seeing documentation as a barrier.

We conclude the paper with community and consultant recommendations.

Community Recommendations

  • Improve community participation
  • Work on beginner resources
  • Create a contribution list
  • More communication with the community to learn about platforms
  • Create workshops
  • More Outreach
  • Additional ideas

Consultant Recommendations

  • Help Newcomers acclimate by
    • Being welcoming
    • Evaluate project-person fit
    • Make it easy to find communication channels
    • Identify good first contributions.
  • Develop and Visualize User-to-contributor pipelines
  • Make existing resources visible
  • Improve the culture