What happens during a CoC investigation?

Facilitator: Karin Lagesen

Chair, Code of Conduct Committee



Hi all!

I am Karin Lagesen, and I’m the Chair of the CoC committee. In today’s community discussion session I thought I’d go thorugh what we actually do in this committee when we investigate incidents.

Click here for the recording



Outline for today

  • Welcome, Introductions, and Code of Conduct
  • About the CoC and the CoC committee
  • How we deal with incidents
  • Breakout session
  • Q&A
  • How to get involved
  • Reminder to trainees how to get credit for their checkout requirement


So, this is the outline for what we will go through today.

About half of this hour is set aside for discussions, first in breakout groups, and then amongst all of us.

For the Q&A session, I have made a Q&A section in the etherpad for us. As we go along, please add your questions there, and we will go through them.

About the CoC and the Committee


So, first a bit about the CoC and the Committee

The Code of Conduct - History

  • First CoC adopted from the Python Software Foundation in 2012
  • Software Carpentries Foundation est. 2014
  • Established policy subcommittee 2016
    • Revision of CoC
    • Established enforcement manual
  • New revision 2018
    • removal of intent
    • introduction of examples of positive/negative behavior
  • Code of Conduct Revisions


So, the CoC have moved through several transitions

We began in 2012 with a CoC adopted from the Python Software Foundation

The foundation was then established 2014/2015

A policy subcommitte was established in 2016, and that committee worked on formulating a new CoC and also establishing an enforcement manual

New revison in 2018, saw a need for clarification after having conducted Incident Response Training with Otter Tech

The Code of Conduct

  • Purpose: Provide a welcoming and supportive environment
  • Applies to all Carpentries spaces
  • Main focus is on behavior
  • Shows examples of wanted and unwanted behavior
  • All participants in all Carpentries spaces are expected to comply with the CoC


So, the aim of having a CoC is to help provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the community. The CoC helps define what members can expect.

After much discussion, we have settled on having the CoC only cover Carpentries spaces. This means that if carpentries members do something that would have been against our CoC in a non-carpentries situation, this will not affect their standing in the Carpentries community, because the CoC does not cover such situations. It should however be noted that the EC has reserved the right to terminate someones membership in the Carpentries if they should deem to do so.

So, as it stands, the CoC mainly focuses on behavior, this is what we can actually say something about. In the latest revision we removed references to intent, because we realized through working with the CoC that it was very difficult to judge intent. We also decided to add examples not only of unwanted behavior, but wanted behavior. This helps set positive expectations for the community.

The Code of Conduct Committee

  • Karin Lagesen (Chair)
  • Malvika Sharan
  • Sam Ahern
  • Simon Waldman
  • Kari L. Jordan (staff liaison)
  • Ethan White (EC liaison, will be replaced with new EC)

Looking for more members, especially outside of Europe!


So, this is the composition of the CoC committee as of now.

Our upper limit is approximately 10 people. We are currently looking for new members, esp for people outside of Europe, so if you’re interested, let me know.

How do we deal with incidents?


So, next I thought I would show you how we actually deal with incidents.

For the first part here, I thought I would focus on what the CoCc does, will return to what instructors etc can/should do


  • Committee receives report
  • CoCc decides if this could constitute a breach
    • If possible breach: investigation may be launched
  • Meetings with reporter and possibly reportee
  • Meeting to decide final results
  • Communicate results to reporter and possibly reportee
  • Goal: resolved within a week, if not, keep reporter informed

Comment: If the CoC decides no breach has occurred
at the very beginning, the reportee is not informed


Described here is in brief the process we go thorugh. This proceeds roughly in three phases:

Preliminary phase: we get a report, we let the reporter know that we got it, and we do an preliminary assessment - has something happened?

Investigatory phase: we assess what has happened, and we try to figure out if we need to know more. If so, we talk to the reporter and possibly the reportee.

Concluding phase: we evaluate the information that we have gathered, and make a decision, which is then communicated to the people involved.

Note: Maybe mention that at physical events, first line of reporting can be the organisers. Can hopefully resolve things during the event, thus improving matters, rather than in hindsight.

Initial report

  • Committee receives report, usually via email
  • Within 24 hrs: respond to reporter to acknowledge receipt
  • At least 3 members must respond to the incident - responders become Incident Response Group (IRG)
  • IRG decides if situation could constitute a breach
  • If IRG decides situation could constitute a breach, the group decides if more information is needed to resolve the issue


So, during the preliminary phase, this is what happens.

The CoC gets a report, usually via email. We then have 24 hrs to respond. Usually we respond a lot faster than that.

We then try to gather a minimum of 3 people who will constitute the Incident Response Group

The first focus is then on doing a preliminary assessment: do we think something has happened here, based on reported information?

If so, we try to figure out if we need more information from the reporter and possibly also the reportee.


  • Meeting with reporter
    • Purpose: get more complete information about incident
    • Acknowledge and listen to what has happened
    • Don’t communicate any decisions in either direction

  • Meeting with reportee
    • Tell them about what has been reported about them
    • Do not inform them about who has reported them
    • Allow them to respond
    • Gauge their response, may affect outcome
    • Don’t communicate any decisions in either direction


Then the question becomes, what do we do to find out more?

Usually through online meeting with the reporter and possibly also the reporter.

Main goal of speaking to both is to gather information. We convey no decisions either way to either party.

In the case of the reportee, it is also important to listen to their response. Our response might be affected by how the reportee responds to us.

Concluding meeting

  • IRG meets to decide outcome
  • Investigators communicate information from reporter and reportee
  • IRG tries to identify how the CoC could have been violated
  • IRG votes on whether a breach has occurred
  • IRG decides resolution
  • Result communicated back to reporter and reportee


After gathering more information, we then meet to decide on what to do. We here evaluate the information gathered, and try to identify if and if so, how the CoC have been violated.

A majority of the participants of the IRG has to agree on the decision we decide on.

Aims of response. This is about minimising future harm, possibly about setting expectations in the community - but not about punishment!

Possible responses - not exhaustive

  • No action
  • Private reprimand
  • Requiring someone to not contact someone else
  • Require someone to leave an event
  • Temporary suspension from one or all Carpentries spaces
  • Permanent removal from the organization

Other types of sanctions may also be imposed


What we expect from community members

  • All members should help uphold the CoC
  • If you see someone involved in something, offer your support
  • Ask if they would like help reporting the incident
  • During workshop: let participants know who they can contact if something happens
  • As event instructor/organizer: have full autonomy for enforcing CoC then and there
  • Please report all incidents to CoC, even if resolved then and there


Last but not least, I want to speak about what we expect from our community members.

We expect all to help uphold the CoC, this means that we are collectively responsible for upholding our community standards

If we see something happening to someone, we expect people to step in and see if the person affected would like some assistance in dealing with the incident.

If people are in an organizing position, we also expect them to enforce the CoC. This means that if someone is breaching the CoC, they are authorized to act on that breach then and there.

We do however want to know about what happened, even if you decided to resolve it then and there.

Breakout Sessions


Here are some ideas for questions for breakout sessions:


Breakout questions

  • What types of incidents do you think are common in workshop settings?
  • What types of incidents do you think may arise in online forums?
  • How do you talk about the Code of Conduct during a workshop?
  • How would you deal with an incident happening in a workshop you are running?




Getting Involved

GitHub Issues for revising CoC Documentation:

Interested in join the CoCc? Contact karin.lagesen@gmail.com


Reminder to Checkout Participants


2019-01-31-Carpentries-Conversation-CoC - Google Slides