What's in a developer's name?

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Resa Nadri, Gema Rodriguez Perez, and Mei NagappanResearch conducted by recent computer science master’s graduate Reza Nadri, recent postdoctoral researcher Gema Rodríguez-Pérez and their supervisor Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Mei Nagappan found that the perceived race and ethnicity of a developer — based on just their user name — can affect how the developer’s contributions to open source software projects are evaluated.

In GitHub, an online platform for software development where developers store their open source software projects and work with other developers, the technical quality of a coder’s contributions is unquestionably important. And this collaborative software development community has long viewed itself as a meritocracy, one where quality of code is paramount and decisions to accept or reject contributions are based solely on technical excellence.

“A developer’s contributions to an open source software project are accepted or rejected for a variety of technical reasons, but our analysis of tens of thousands of projects on GitHub shows that contributions can be accepted or rejected because of other factors,” said Professor Nagappan. “We found that one of them is the perceived race and ethnicity of a developer based on the person’s name on the platform.”

Read more on the researcher's findings in the feature article.

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