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Call for Proposals: Improving the Contributor Experience in OpenRefine

· 5 min read
Antonin Delpeuch

The OpenRefine advisory committee solicits proposals to improve contributor onboarding and retention in the project, funded by a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation via the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative under their Essential Open Source Software for Science programme.

OpenRefine is a power tool to clean messy data, popular in a diverse range of communities. It has been serving the needs of journalists, librarians, Wikipedians, scientists for more than 10 years, and is taught in many curricula and workshops around the world.

OpenRefine is a fiscally sponsored project of Code for Science & Society Inc, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in the US.


We solicit proposals to improve the day-to-day experience of OpenRefine contributors. This covers the following areas:

  • Documentation for contributors. This can cover a wide range of topics, such as IDE setup instructions, testing guidelines, code style, pull request process, documentation of the overall architecture of the code base, guide to debugging, guide to extension development, translation workflow, release process, or other similar areas.
  • Testing improvements. We currently do not have any UI testing in place, our code coverage for the backend is very sparse, and we do not have wide-ranging integration tests either. Proposals to improve our testing are therefore in scope as well.
  • Tackling technical debt. This can cover migration out of unmaintained or obsolete libraries, dependency management, continuous integration and other housekeeping tasks.

Timeline and Process

We will used a community centered process to ensure that decisions on technical direction are agreed upon by the community.

  • 28 August 2020: Call for proposals announced and mailing list is open for project submissions and discussion
  • 21 September 2020: Proposals due, open discussion period ends, and advisory committee discusses proposals and makes decisions on priorities and budgets
  • 30 September 2020: Selected projects announced and contracts established with CS&S to complete the work
  • 15 October 2020: Earliest work start date
  • 30 April 2021: Latest work end date


We have 50,000 USD available to fund these projects. Selected proposals will invoice Code for Science & Society for their work towards the corresponding goals.

How to apply

You do not need to have a fully formed idea to submit to the mailing list. The community and OpenRefine Advisory Committee will help you develop and scope your work. We have added a template so you can see the parts of a finished scope of work, but you do not need to know what the timeline and budget will be to propose an idea.

  • Propose your project on the mailing list, to build consensus around it and refine the scope of your work with input from the community. We invite open discussion on all submitted proposals on the mailing list.
  • Submit a proposal to for the work you intend to carry out, including a timeline and budget (see template below). If you have not yet contributed to OpenRefine, please also include a short portfolio demonstrating your work in other projects;
  • Approved projects will sign a contract for the work with CS&S;
  • The contributor will invoice CS&S according to the payment schedule agreed to with OpenRefine

Projects will be selected on the basis of their estimated benefit to the community of contributors, their cost and the contribution record of the proposer (in OpenRefine or similar projects).

Code for Science & Society is an equal opportunity employer committed to hiring a diverse workforce at all levels of the organization, creating a culture that allows us to better serve our projects, our employees, and our communities. We value and encourage the contributions of our employees and strive to create an environment where everyone can reach their full potential and drive outstanding results. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, national origin, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, marital status, veteran status, gender identity or expression, or any other basis protected by local, state, or federal law. This policy applies with regard to all aspects of one’s employment, including hiring, transfer, promotion, compensation, eligibility for benefits, and termination.

Application template

Project title: Improving OpenRefine development with Foobar

Project description (about 250 words): "I feel that the lack of Foobar has really impeded my work on the project so far. Currently we just have some Barfoo integration, but this tool is abandoned and does not work well on Windows. There seems to be consensus in the community for using Foobar 4, which would be added in the repository. We would make sure its integration with IntelliJ and Eclipse work well. The bulk of the task is to convert the existing Barfoo files to Foobar's format. (...)" Please describe why this work is important and an overview of how you approach solving this problem.

Mailing list thread: Give a link to the openrefine-dev thread where your proposal was discussed.

Key milestones: Please break down the work you want to do into small chunks with defined checkpoints (ie: I will do X, and we will know when it is done because an X will appear on the screen)

Timeline: Is this a 4 week sprint? A 3 month project? Break down how long the work will take.

Budget: Please estimate the cost of this work and include the cost of any additional services you will need to use.