This code of conduct outlines expectations of the Open Biological Ontologies (OBO) community. The OBO community is committed to providing a welcoming and inspiring environment for all community members, and we expect this code of conduct to be honored by each community member. Herein, we provide specifics regarding appropriate code of conduct, including recommendations for conflict resolution. The OBO community strives to:

Be welcoming and patient

We want and need all comers to contribute to our collective goals of creating a robust suite of interoperable and effective ontologies. Cooperation from all members is needed to help ensure a safe and welcoming environment for everybody. We strive to be a community that that welcomes and supports persons of all backgrounds and identities. This includes, but is not limited to, members of any race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, immigration status, social and economic class, educational level, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, physical size, family status, political belief, religion, and mental or physical ability.

Be considerate

Your work will be used by other people, and you will depend on the work of others. Any decision you take will affect other community members. The consequences of your actions should be considered when making decisions. Remember that we’re a large community, so you might not be communicating in someone else’s primary language or share their area of expertise. This can present a challenge, but with thoughtful consideration, all communications between community members can be, and should be, considerate of the perspectives of others.

Be respectful

Community members are likely to disagree on issues. This is to be expected (especially amongst ontologists!), within our large, diverse group of individuals. However, we aim to support, at all times, constructive discourse when disagreements arise. This may lead to frustration from time to time, but we cannot allow frustration to turn into disrespectful behavior, mannerisms, or attacks. Our collective productivity very much depends on a supportive community, where people feel comfortable or not threatened when they need to disagree or propose alternative strategies.

Be careful in choice of words

Be thoughtful in your use of words, as others may interpret them differently than may have been intended. If you see others using potentially disrespectful or alienating langauge, please let them know even if it was not intended for you. Often those feeling uncomfortable may not feel comfortable doing or saying anything. It is important that we collectively self-correct.

Be kind to everyone

Do not insult or put down other community members. Harassment and other exclusionary behavior are not acceptable. This includes, but is not limited to: violent threats or language directed against another person; discriminatory jokes and language; posts of sexually explicit or violent material; posts (or threat of posts) of other person’s personally identifying information (“doxing”); photography or recordings; personal insults, especially those using racist or sexist terms; unwelcome sexual attention; advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior; and repeated harassment of others. Harassment also includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, deliberate intimidation, stalking, sustained disruption of talks or other events. In general, if someone asks you to stop, then stop.

Try to understand the cause of disagreements

Disagreements, both social and technical, happen all the time. It is important that we constructively resolve disagreements and differing views. Remember that we are a diverse group. Diversity contributes to the strength of our community, which is composed of people from a wide range of backgrounds. However, diversity also means that different persons will have different perspectives on issues. While you may not always understand why someone holds a particular viewpoint, that does not necessarily mean that a viewpoint is wrong. Instead of blame, anger, hostility, or argumentation, focus on resolving disagreements and learning from mistakes.

Ethics Statement

All members of the OBO community will be expected to abide by the highest ethical standards, for example, in accordance with the NIH standards for ethical conduct ( Plagiarism will not be tolerated.

Diversity Statement

We encourage every member of the OBO community to participate, and we are committed to building a community for all. Although we may not always be successful, we seek to treat every person as fairly and equally as possible. If a community member makes a mistake, then we expect that person to own responsibility for the error and correct it. If a person has been harmed or offended as a result of another person’s action, and if a community member is witness, then both members own responsibility to listen carefully and respectfully to person who has been harmed and make every effort to not repeat the behaviour, as well as to make every effort to correct the damage.

Although this list cannot be exhaustive, we explicitly honor diversity in age, gender, gender identity or expression, culture, ethnicity, language, national origin, political beliefs, profession, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and technical ability. We will not tolerate discrimination based on any of the protected characteristics above, including participants with disabilities.

Conflict Resolution and Reporting Issues

Conflict resolution team

The OBO-COC team is intentionally small with only three members, in order to best support confidential handling of issues. Members of the OBO-COC team are nominated by the community and voted on by the OBO-Operations committee. The term shall be 2 years, but may be renewed.

Reporting issues

If a community member experiences or witnesses unacceptable behavior, or if any other concern arises, then please report it by contacting a member of the OBO-COC team. If the issue involves a member of the COC-team, then please contact a different member. If these options are not sufficient, consider contacting a member of the OBO-Operations committee and/or your local ombuds office.

All reports to OBO-COC will be handled with discretion and will receive serious attention. Reports should include the following:

  • Name of person submitting the report. Names (real, nicknames, or pseudonyms) of any individuals involved. If there are additional witnesses, please include them as well.
  • An account of the incident and whether it is ongoing.
  • A link to any publicly available record (e.g., a mailing list archive, ticket, or a public Slack log), if applicable.
  • Any additional information that may be helpful.

If a community member files a report, then a member of the OBO-COC team will personally contact that person, review the incident with them, follow up with any additional questions, and make a decision with you as to how to proceed. All information will be held in confidence at the direction of the person reporting the incident.