Community Engagement Guidelines
August 25, 2021
Massive is dedicated to building an environment that encourages open discussion, thought and participation from all our members. As our Code of Conduct lays out, we have absolutely no tolerance for harassment of any kind. But we know we can do better than being a harassment-free community: we want to be a model for actively countering the unconscious biases and disparities that occur along gender, racial, sexual orientation, class and other lines in other academic communities.
To do this, we’re laying out some community engagement guidelines. These are not hard and fast rules, but rather structures that we hope help everyone think about how to make this the most diverse, open and active science discussion community anywhere.
If you feel someone consistently fails to meet these guidelines, please let a Massive staff member know via direct message or email. We will discuss your feedback privately and, if appropriate, reach out to the member in question to deliver your feedback anonymously. If a member receives multiple complaints that they are not following these guidelines, Massive reserves the right to take any lawful action we deem appropriate, including but not limited to warning the offender or stripping Consortium membership from the offender. (If you feel you have been unfairly accused of violating these guidelines, you should contact a Massive employee with a concise description of your grievance; any grievances filed will be considered by the entire Massive team.)
As always, we welcome your feedback on these guidelines in our forum or via email. Any feedback is considered private and between you and the staff member you contact, unless you specify otherwise.
Be an amplifier for others
In science and society, women, people of color and other underrepresented groups have a harder time having their ideas recognized and, when they are recognized, receiving proper credit for them. Massive members should strive to amplify good ideas they see and over-credit the originators of them to avoid accidentally receiving credit.
One simple, common practice to get into is to always reference the originators of an idea or train of thought when you mention them in the forum, on Twitter, or other discussions. For example: “I agree with what Julie said: this study design was elegant.”
Step back and step up
Society tends to give more space to privileged individuals – in particular, privileged individuals who are more naturally outgoing than others. We encourage Massive members to correct for this by being aware of their natural tendencies and habits. If you find yourself contributing a lot, consider stepping back on occasion and letting others respond or, better yet, inviting others to join the conversation. On the flip side, if your tendency is to sit back, we encourage you to try stepping up more and joining the conversation even when you’d more naturally wait for others. To help, we are happy to make space for you to join the conversation by asking for your participation on topics of interest. Feel free to contact any Massive staff member for help.
Give and take
Most activities in the Massive Science Consortium involve asking for feedback or giving feedback. Unfortunately, society often expects women, people of color, and other underprivileged groups to take feedback, and punishes them for giving feedback. We expect members to contribute roughly equally to both activities. To facilitate this, we encourage you to be aware of your tendencies. If you find yourself giving a lot of feedback, you should actively look for opportunities to ask others for feedback instead. If you find yourself taking a lot of feedback, or being dismissed when you give feedback, ping a Massive staff member for help creating spaces for you to give feedback in ways that will be recognized and valued.
Err toward nonviolent, inclusive communication, especially in feedback
Lots of everyday language, positive (“killed it!”) and negative (“this blows”) can be shockingly violent or sexual in nature. This type of language lends itself to confrontation and dominance, rather than discussion and consensus. Whenever possible, try to step back, examine the language you use, and remove references to violence and dominance, especially when giving feedback or criticism. Here’s a great cheat sheet on how to listen and give feedback in productive ways. We also encourage you to explore the field and methods of nonviolent communication. This is a great place to get started.
Speak & listen from personal experience
Privileged individuals often want to help less privileged folks by speaking out on their behalf or trying to relate their own experiences to those expressed by less privileged people. Though well intentioned, we consider this practice not helpful, because it does not acknowledge the unique experiences of women, people of color, LGBTQ people, and other groups. Instead, try to speak from your own experience, amplify the experiences of others, and most of all, listen to what others are telling you. If someone tells you they are experiencing something, you should take that at face value, even if you’ve never experienced it, rather than trying to interrogate it to determine its validity.
Ask for help
Our goal is to foster an open community that encourages difficult discussions, rather than discouraging them. If you want to discuss something but aren’t sure how to do so while following these guidelines, ask another community member or Massive staff member for help. We’ll talk it through with you privately and without judgement.
Assume good intentions & forgive
The Massive Science Consortium is an exclusive group by design. We only accept members who we believe will make positive contributions to the community. We expect all members to afford others the courtesy of assuming that they mean well, even if they make mistakes. We believe members should be quick to apologize, forgive, and move on in more constructive ways.
If someone isn’t following these guidelines, you should politely ask them to remember these guidelines and ask if there’s a more constructive way to carry on the discussion, rather than shutting down the discussion by accusing them of bad behavior or bad intentions.
If you receive feedback that you’re not following one of these guidelines, you should take a step back, re-read the guideline and find a more constructive way to proceed, rather than assuming the other person meant to criticize or attack you and responding in kind.
If you ever feel frustrated or angry towards another Consortium member, we expect you to step back and let the anger pass rather than responding violently. When you’re in a more positive place, feel free to carry on the conversation or reach out to a Massive staff member to talk through the issue and find a way to respond. Your feedback will be treated confidentially and without judgement.
Do not impose artificial limits
Like every community, the scientific community is a fundamentally human one. The politics of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and other identities infuse science, too, and should be open for discussion. We expect and welcome open discussions of the way these issues intersect with science and society, and expect all members to follow the above guidelines during these discussions.