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Re: Revitalising COMCIFS

Dear all,

It was very helpful to hear the points of view expressed at yesterday's meeting. It seems reasonable not to initiate any major changes in COMCIFS structure or to attempt wholesale delegation to IUCr commissions. I'm hearing instead that better, easily-accessible documentation and a focus on supporting topic-based working groups are likely to be more productive in the short term.

I am still concerned about the lack of growth or renewal in our CIF expert community. Time permitting I will attempt to put together a lightweight newsletter in the hope that somebody will be willing to take it on. Any further ideas around building up the community are welcome.

all the best,

On Tue, 17 Aug 2021 at 03:41, <kaduk@polycrystallography.com> wrote:
Herb makes a convincing case for one body, in which those with the
technical knowledge make the decisions.

Transparency should, of course, be key.  All of our work should be
available on the IUCr web site.

As far as powder diffraction goes, there is a meeting scheduled for 25
Aug to discuss how to ease the submission of powder manuscripts to IUCr
journals.  I presume that this will involve creation of some new data
items, which can be used by checkCIF and the editorial system to
circumvent the irrelevant alerts.

Jim Kaduk

On 2021-08-13 00:50, James H via comcifs wrote:
> Dear COMCIFS members,
> I believe it is time to assess how we do things on COMCIFS, and to
> take some incremental steps towards streamlining our activities and
> broadening our base of dictionary contributors. To that end I've
> created a discussion document which you can read at
> https://github.com/COMCIFS/comcifs.github.io/blob/master/draft/CIF_processes_discussion.md.
>  That document is also appended to this email.
> Please discuss. In the absence of substantial objections, I will take
> this as broad agreement with the document and proceed on that basis.
> all the best,
> James.
> ==========================================================================
> # Revitalising COMCIFS: Discussion
> DRAFT 2021-08-13
> See "Next Step" at the end for suggested next actions.
> # Introduction
> After a decade as COMCIFS chair I have (finally, some might say)
> perceived a couple of related issues:
> 1. Most of the work is falling on a few people, which is unsustainable
> and leads to too narrow a focus
> 2. Dictionary development is not keeping pace with the science
> This discussion document contains some ideas for a way forward which
> I'd like you all to consider and to bring your combined experience of
> committees and scientists on committees to bear.
> # Current situation
> Formally, COMCIFS is a subcommittee of the IUCr executive. While we
> are relatively minor compared to the commissions, as a result we have
> a great deal of flexibility in how we organise ourselves.
> COMCIFS currently operates in a relatively informal fashion.
> Discussions
> of policy are held on the official COMCIFS mailing list. Discussions
> relating to the Core dictionary are held on the core-DMG mailing list.
> Technical issues, including DDLm development, are discussed either on
> the DDLm mailing list or within the Github repositories.
> # Suggestions for improvement
> ## Suggestion 1: Document procedures and processes.
> The informal way of doing things is essentially exclusionary to all
> those "not in the club". In contrast, easy-to-find and clear
> procedures allow new contributors to feel confident that they are
> approaching a task correctly and thus lower the barriers to
> contribution.
> Additionally, agreed and transparent procedures reduce the possibility
> of mistakes or misunderstandings. I realise that I might be sounding
> (perhaps frighteningly) bureaucratic to some of you, but my plan would
> be to document no more than necessary to achieve the above goals. It
> is likely that most procedures would be a single page, if that, and as
> you will see below I'm suggesting that the quantity of procedures
> depends very much on the interest of COMCIFS in having them.
> ## Suggestion 2: Technical Advisory Committee
> This would be the group currently called "ddlm-group" which consults
> on any changes to the foundational standards (DDLm and dREL). This
> group would become responsible for the detail of implementing
> procedures using Github, the IUCr website and so on.
> The idea of this group is to remove the (mostly perceived) need for
> COMCIFS members to be across the technical detail. Instead technical
> questions/issues can be delegated to the TAC. Membership models for
> the TAC can be discussed, there are many to choose from in the open
> source world, e.g. Python.
> ## Suggestion 3: Formally involve the relevant IUCr commissions
> IUCr commissions have no formal relationship to dictionaries that
> cover their topics. However, it makes no sense that, for example, the
> powder diffraction commission has no expected input or responsibility
> for the powder dictionary.
> The IUCr executive have recently encouraged us to formalise links with
> commissions. This is important, as the IUCr executive are the ones who
> have the ability to hold commissions accountable for their area of
> expertise in the dictionaries.
> ## Suggestion 4: Lower barriers to participation
> All interested parties should be able to join both COMCIFS and any
> dictionary management lists that fall under our purview
> automatically. If unproductive discussion due to too many voices
> becomes a problem then we can revisit this.
> ## Suggestion 5: Better information dissemination
> An informal newsletter covering recent developments helps all parts
> of the community understand what is going on without having to visit
> the various places in which things are happening.
> # First steps
> Creating and documenting processes takes time and energy. However,
> before involving the commissions these processes need to be set up. So
> process number 1 is the process for producing documents (sort of like
> ddl.dic is the dictionary for dictionaries). I propose the following
> outline for this "procedure number 1".
> ## Creating procedures: procedure number 1
> The type of work that COMCIFS does is similar to the W3C and other
> standards bodies. I suggest that the International Virtual Observatory
> Alliance documentation standards are a good reference point
> (https://www.ivoa.net/documents/DocStd/20170517/REC-DocStd-2.0-20170517.pdf).
> These are themselves based on the W3C documentation standards. Given
> that our goals are considerably more modest than those sprawling
> organisations, we can aim for considerable simplification.
> The following three steps and documents should be tracked on a
> website: either in the IUCr CIF area, or Github repository, or both.
> ### Step 1: Proposal
> A short statement outlining the nature, scope and objectives of the
> procedure is submitted to the COMCIFS mailing list, either directly or
> via the COMCIFS secretary or chair. A draft document may be provided
> but is not necessary.
> ### Step 2: Working group
> If the procedure is seen as worthwhile by COMCIFS, a working group is
> formed and tasked to produce a Working Draft.
> ### Step 3: Approved document
> The Working draft is presented to COMCIFS for feedback and approval.
> Once approved, the working draft becomes an approved document.
> # Other required procedures
> After agreeing on something like the above process, I suggest we need
> to deal with the following as well:
> - Procedure for COMCIFS approval
> - Procedure for adding a dictionary definition
> - Procedure for creating a new dictionary
> # Next step
> The "Creating a procedure" proposal is discussed by COMCIFS as per
> Step 1 above. If COMCIFS agrees, a working group is formed to document
> the process for creating new procedures, as per Step 2 above.
> --
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