Working Group Guidelines

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Working groups are collections of FORCE11 members who come together to focus on a particular topic in scholarly communication. Many have found that leading and participating in working groups is a rewarding experience in numerous ways, including meeting new people and gaining an enriched understanding of the topic under consideration.  We have found that the WGs with the most impact are ones that adhere to the FORCE11 expectations of transparency, inclusion, and community reporting/communication.

Working groups have a number of characteristics that help make them effective.

  1. From the community. Working groups are proposed by members of FORCE11 and run by those members.
  2. Time limited. This means that members can focus for a short period of time on the working group without making indefinite commitments. It also ensures that the (small) resources of FORCE11 can be efficiently allocated.
  3. Focused on output(s). Instead of boiling the ocean, working groups focus on a set of targeted outputs. This can range from documents, to software, to an event. The key is to make these outputs doable in the limited time. If a bigger set of work is needed, then it’s best to slice it into multiple back-to-back working groups.
  4. Open and Inclusive. Working groups are typically open to any member of FORCE11 and aim to be additive to the community as a whole.  
  5. Transparent. The processes and results of working group are not just accessible to the wider community but are actively communicated.  In particular, working groups should plan to report on their activities at the FORCE11 conference.

These characteristics are meant as guides not mandates. In the end, working groups are there to facilitate the overall goals of FORCE11. Working groups, with board approval, can deviate from these characteristics.

Working Group Infrastructure

FORCE11 provides the infrastructure for working groups to effectively collaborate. This includes:

  • Group Webpage — Webpages within the FORCE11 website for group leaders to manage the information and activities of the group
  • Group Private Email List (groupname@force11.org) — Only members will be able to receive and respond to mail. All members will receive emails sent to this address
  • Group Google Drive Folder — A link from the group pages, for members to work on documents together or store documents
  • Discussion Area — Area for posting topics and comments open to any Force 11 member to view.  However, only group members may post to this forum
  • GitHub Workspace for the Group — Place to deposit software
  • Group Pages — Place to add links to other locations
  • Group Calendar — Place to add links to events
  • Attachments — Place to upload files for the group
  • Training — FORCE11 support personnel will provide training with the working group leader(s) on how to manage their website and group activities.  

If the working group needs more infrastructure (e.g., teleconference facilities or staff support), this can be requested either in the working group application or directly to the Board of Directors.  These requests will be considered by the board and staff in the context of FORCE11’s resources and commitments.

Upon request the Board will gladly arrange a session with prior working group leaders to describe the ins and outs of running a working group.

Creating a Working Group

Any FORCE11 member can propose a working group. Establishing a working group is a commitment and it needs time and attention.  Therefore, each working group has at least one working group leader (although generally two leaders seems to work best). These leaders are responsible for organizing the working group and reporting on its activities to the community as a whole.

The working group application consists of four parts:

  1. Scope and planned activities.  We have found that the most successful groups have a clearly defined initial scope and a rather concrete target/outcome (such as preparing a report, drafting a set of principles, or testing implementations). While the scope may change over time it helps to have a very clear and concrete target.
  2. Timeline. Working groups in FORCE11 are meant to address a specific area/topic and produce their results/outcomes within a short timeframe. Thus, each working group needs to specify a time line.  We suggest 6–12 months as the maximum for most group activities.
  3. Engagement description. Working groups should extend and help the broader community.  What other work has been done in this space and how will you build on it?  Who is already engaged?  What will you do to ensure that other relevant communities are identified and become involved? How does the working group build on prior FORCE11 working groups?
  4. Publicity and dissemination. Working groups should try to impact the communities and stakeholders that they target but also keep the wider FORCE11 community up-to-date. This should be reflected in the application.

The proposal is reviewed by the Board of Directors and FORCE11 staff for acceptance. The Board can also request other FORCE11 members to help review the working group or ask the FORCE11 community to discuss the proposal at large. We hope to make this process as lightweight as possible. A brief rationale will accompany the final decision, which will be provided within one month.

Working Group Status Updates

It’s great if working groups let the community know what they are up to. Every working group is required to give a monthly status update (just a simple email) to the Board of Directors and the community through:

After the proposed working group time period has elapsed, we ask the groups:

  • prepare an Outcomes report to be posted to the website.
  • meet with the Board of Directors for a final progress report and summary to help communicate what worked and what didn’t.

Normally, at that point, the working group will shut down.  For working groups wishing to continue, a case for extension needs to be made. The Board may elect to extend a working group after its planned duration has expired based on a sufficient case from the group.  FORCE11 maintains a registry of current and past working groups.

Wrap-up

This guide isn’t finished. We hope to update it periodically with more context and background and ask you to work with us to keep improving working groups, which form such an important part of our community forum.

If you have questions, send an email to groupadmin@force11.org