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Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

Common goods fail because of a failure to coordinate collective action. To scale and sustain an open source project, open source communities need to transition from individual, uncoordinated action to cooperative, coordinated action. [From 3 Models for Open Source Governance]

The goal of the biocommons project is accelerate research, promote data sharing, and improve human health by collaborating on interoperable, high-quality, bioinformatics software and data for sequence variant interpretation, and to foster a community that develops these tools.

This governance document provides a framework for the organization, decision making, and essential values of the biocommons project. The Steering Committee (proposed below) will refine this document as needed in order to serve the needs of the biocommons objectives.


Members of the biocommons are individuals who make actively contribute to the overall project and uphold our values and code of conduct. Contributions including any activity that furthers the mission, such as writing documentation, providing technical assistance in forums, triaging issues, managing projects, providing logistics support, and coding.

Members who violate biocommons values or the code of conduct may be suspended from participation in the biocommons, including leadership positions.

The biocommons does not currently provide a mechanism for institutional or organization membership.

Organizational Needs and Teams

The biocommons has the following structure:

  • The Steering Committee provides general administrative oversight for the biocommons project.
  • The Architecture Team sets coding guidelines and standards in order maximize the utility of biocommons software and data.
  • The Project Teams plan and coordinate development activities within their projects, consistent with biocommons architectural directions.
  • The Operations Team provides technical and systems administration support, such as AWS infrastructure and web site development.
  • An Executive Director, who leads the biocommons during the transition from the current (2022) informal affiliation to a more organized open source project.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee:

  • Is resposible for the development of a healthy organization.
  • Updates this governance document and resolves questions about its interpretation.
  • Selects leaders for other teams.
  • Receives and responds to issues regarding membership and breaches of community standards.

The Steering Committee is comprised of the Executive Director and other members who are invited by the Executive Director. The Steering Committee is expected to meet every 3 months. Decisions in the Steering Committee are made by the Executive Director with input from Steering Committee members.

Architecture Team

The Architecture Team:

  • Is comprised of the Architecture Lead and other members who are appointed by the Steering Committee.
  • Makes project-wide techincal decisions in order to foster consisitency and interoperability.
  • Establishes coding guidelines.
  • Participates in project code reviews as requested.

It is expected that Project Leads (below) should attend Architectural Team meetings in order to raise issues or concerns, and to ensure that projects remain aligned and coordinated. Decisions in the Architecture Team are expected to be made by consensus. The Executive Director is a member of the Architecture Team and may override decisions in exceptional circumstances.

Project Teams

Project Teams are responsible for planning and coordinating development activities within their projects. A project typically corresponds to one or more related source code repositories.

Project Teams should have at least two Project Leads, appointed by the Steering Committee. The Project Leads are the primary maintainers of the relevant repositories.

Management of project repositories should be consistent with the overall biocommons coding guidelines.

Team Leadership

Team leaders are nominated by the Steering Committee based on recognized domain expertise and sustained contribution to the biocommons.

Other Teams and Roles

The Steering Committee may identify and create additional roles and teams as needed, such as project management, documentation, testing, technical support, logistics, AWS infrastructure management, GitHub account management, and web site support.