Project governance

The official version of this document, along with a list of individuals and institutions in the roles defined in the governance section below, is contained in the Project governance page of the pandas website.

The Project

The pandas Project (The Project) is an open source software project affiliated with the 501(c)3 NumFOCUS Foundation. The goal of The Project is to develop open source software for data ingest, data preparation, data analysis, and data visualization for the Python programming language. The Software developed by The Project is released under the BSD (or similar) open source license, developed openly and hosted in public GitHub repositories under the pandas GitHub organization. Examples of Project Software include the main pandas code repository and the pandas-stubs library.

Through its affiliation with NumFOCUS, The Project has the right to receive tax-deductible donations in the United States of America.

The Project is developed by a team of distributed developers, called Contributors. Contributors are individuals who have contributed code, documentation, designs or other work to one or more Project repositories. Anyone can be a Contributor. Contributors can be affiliated with any legal entity or none. Contributors participate in the project by submitting, reviewing and discussing GitHub Pull Requests and Issues and participating in open and public Project discussions on GitHub, mailing lists, and elsewhere. The foundation of Project participation is openness and transparency.

Here is a list of the current Contributors to the main pandas repository:

There are also many other Contributors listed in the logs of other repositories of the pandas project.

The Project Community consists of all Contributors and Users of the Project. Contributors work on behalf of and are responsible to the larger Project Community and we strive to keep the barrier between Contributors and Users as low as possible.

The Project is formally affiliated with the 501(c)3 NumFOCUS Foundation (, which serves as its fiscal sponsor, may hold project trademarks and other intellectual property, helps manage project donations and acts as a parent legal entity. NumFOCUS is the only legal entity that has a formal relationship with the project (see Institutional Partners section below).


This section describes the governance and leadership model of The Project.

The foundations of Project governance are:

Traditionally, Project leadership was provided by a BDFL (Wes McKinney) and subset of Contributors, called the Core Team, whose active and consistent contributions have been recognized by their receiving “commit rights” to the Project GitHub repositories. In general all Project decisions are made through consensus among the Core Team with input from the Community. The BDFL can, but rarely chooses to, override the Core Team and make a final decision on a matter.

While this approach has served us well, as the Project grows and faces more legal and financial decisions and interacts with other institutions, we see a need for a more formal governance model. Moving forward The Project leadership will consist of a BDFL and Core Team. We view this governance model as the formalization of what we are already doing, rather than a change in direction.


The Project will have a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life), who is currently Wes McKinney. As Dictator, the BDFL has the authority to make all final decisions for The Project. As Benevolent, the BDFL, in practice chooses to defer that authority to the consensus of the community discussion channels and the Core Team. It is expected, and in the past has been the case, that the BDFL will only rarely assert his/her final authority. Because it is rarely used, we refer to BDFL’s final authority as a “special” or “overriding” vote. When it does occur, the BDFL override typically happens in situations where there is a deadlock in the Core Team or if the Core Team ask the BDFL to make a decision on a specific matter. To ensure the benevolence of the BDFL, The Project encourages others to fork the project if they disagree with the overall direction the BDFL is taking. The BDFL is chair of the Core Team (see below) and may delegate his/her authority on a particular decision or set of decisions to any other Core Team Member at his/her discretion.

The BDFL can appoint his/her successor, but it is expected that the Core Team would be consulted on this decision. If the BDFL is unable to appoint a successor (e.g. due to death or illness), the Core Team will choose a successor by voting with at least 2/3 of the Core Team members voting in favor of the chosen successor. At least 80% of the Core Team must participate in the vote. If no BDFL candidate receives 2/3 of the votes of the Core Team, the Core Team members shall propose the BDFL candidates to the Main NumFOCUS board, who will then make the final decision.

Core Team

The Project's Core Team will consist of Project Contributors who have produced contributions that are substantial in quality and quantity, and sustained over at least one year. The overall role of the Core Team is to ensure, through working with the BDFL and taking input from the Community, the long-term well-being of the project, both technically and as a community.

During the everyday project activities, Core Team participate in all discussions, code review and other project activities as peers with all other Contributors and the Community. In these everyday activities, Core Team do not have any special power or privilege through their membership on the Core Team. However, it is expected that because of the quality and quantity of their contributions and their expert knowledge of the Project Software that the Core Team will provide useful guidance, both technical and in terms of project direction, to potentially less experienced contributors.

The Core Team and its Members play a special role in certain situations. In particular, the Core Team may:

Core Team membership

To become eligible for being a Core Team Member an individual must be a Project Contributor who has produced contributions that are substantial in quality and quantity, and sustained over at least one year. Potential Core Team Members are nominated by existing Core members and voted upon by the existing Core Team after asking if the potential Member is interested and willing to serve in that capacity. The Core Team will be initially formed from the set of existing Contributors who have been granted commit rights as of late 2015.

When considering potential Members, the Core Team will look at candidates with a comprehensive view of their contributions. This will include but is not limited to code, code review, infrastructure work, mailing list and chat participation, community help/building, education and outreach, design work, etc. We are deliberately not setting arbitrary quantitative metrics (like “100 commits in this repo”) to avoid encouraging behavior that plays to the metrics rather than the project’s overall well-being. We want to encourage a diverse array of backgrounds, viewpoints and talents in our team, which is why we explicitly do not define code as the sole metric on which Core Team membership will be evaluated.

If a Core Team member becomes inactive in the project for a period of one year, they will be considered for removal from the Core Team. Before removal, inactive Member will be approached by the BDFL to see if they plan on returning to active participation. If not they will be removed immediately upon a Core Team vote. If they plan on returning to active participation soon, they will be given a grace period of one year. If they don't return to active participation within that time period they will be removed by vote of the Core Team without further grace period. All former Core Team members can be considered for membership again at any time in the future, like any other Project Contributor. Retired Core Team members will be listed on the project website, acknowledging the period during which they were active in the Core Team.

The Core Team reserves the right to eject current Members, other than the BDFL, if they are deemed to be actively harmful to the project’s well-being, and attempts at communication and conflict resolution have failed.

Conflict of interest

It is expected that the BDFL and Core Team Members will be employed at a wide range of companies, universities and non-profit organizations. Because of this, it is possible that Members will have conflict of interests. Such conflict of interests include, but are not limited to:

All members of the Core Team, BDFL included, shall disclose to the rest of the Core Team any conflict of interest they may have. Members with a conflict of interest in a particular issue may participate in Core Team discussions on that issue, but must recuse themselves from voting on the issue. If the BDFL has recused his/herself for a particular decision, they will appoint a substitute BDFL for that decision.

Private communications of the Core Team

Unless specifically required, all Core Team discussions and activities will be public and done in collaboration and discussion with the Project Contributors and Community. The Core Team will have a private mailing list that will be used sparingly and only when a specific matter requires privacy. When private communications and decisions are needed, the Core Team will do its best to summarize those to the Community after eliding personal/private/sensitive information that should not be posted to the public internet.


The Core Team can create subcommittees that provide leadership and guidance for specific aspects of the project. Like the Core Team as a whole, subcommittees should conduct their business in an open and public manner unless privacy is specifically called for. Private subcommittee communications should happen on the main private mailing list of the Core Team unless specifically called for.

Question: if the BDFL is not on a subcommittee, do they still have override authority?

Suggestion: they do, but they should appoint a delegate who plays that role most of the time, and explicit BDFL intervention is sought only if the committee disagrees with that delegate’s decision and no resolution is possible within the team. This is different from a BDFL delegate for a specific decision (or a recusal situation), where the BDFL is literally giving up his/her authority to someone else in full. It’s more like what Linus Torvalds uses with his “lieutenants” model.

NumFOCUS Subcommittee

The Core Team will maintain one narrowly focused subcommittee to manage its interactions with NumFOCUS.

Institutional Partners and Funding

The BDFL and Core Team are the primary leadership for the project. No outside institution, individual or legal entity has the ability to own, control, usurp or influence the project other than by participating in the Project as Contributors and Core Team. However, because institutions are the primary funding mechanism for the project, it is important to formally acknowledge institutional participation in the project. These are Institutional Partners.

An Institutional Contributor is any individual Project Contributor who contributes to the project as part of their official duties at an Institutional Partner. Likewise, an Institutional Core Team Member is any Core Team Member who contributes to the project as part of their official duties at an Institutional Partner.

With these definitions, an Institutional Partner is any recognized legal entity in the United States or elsewhere that employs at least one Institutional Contributor or Institutional Core Team Member. Institutional Partners can be for-profit or non-profit entities.

Institutions become eligible to become an Institutional Partner by employing individuals who actively contribute to The Project as part of their official duties. To state this another way, the only way for an Institutional Partner to influence the project is by actively contributing to the open development of the project, on equal terms with any other member of the community of Contributors and Core Team Members. Merely using pandas Software or Services in an institutional context does not allow an entity to become an Institutional Partner. Financial gifts do not enable an entity to become an Institutional Partner. Once an institution becomes eligible for Institutional Partnership, the Core Team must nominate and approve the Partnership.

If an existing Institutional Partner no longer has a contributing employee, they will be given a one-year grace period for other employees to begin contributing.

An Institutional Partner is free to pursue funding for their work on The Project through any legal means. This could involve a non-profit organization raising money from private foundations and donors or a for-profit company building proprietary products and services that leverage Project Software and Services. Funding acquired by Institutional Partners to work on The Project is called Institutional Funding. However, no funding obtained by an Institutional Partner can override The Project BDFL and Core Team. If a Partner has funding to do pandas work and the Core Team decides to not pursue that work as a project, the Partner is free to pursue it on their own. However in this situation, that part of the Partner’s work will not be under the pandas umbrella and cannot use the Project trademarks in a way that suggests a formal relationship.

To acknowledge institutional contributions, there are two levels of Institutional Partners, with associated benefits:

Tier 1 = an institution with at least one Institutional Core Team Member

Tier 2 = an institution with at least one Institutional Contributor


Non-compliance with the terms of the governance documents shall be reported to the Core Team either through public or private channels as deemed appropriate.

Changing the Governance

Changes to the governance are submitted via a GitHub pull request to The Project's governance page. The pull request is then refined in response to public comment and review, with the goal being consensus in the community. After this open period, a Core Team Member proposes to the Core Team that the changes be ratified and the pull request merged (accepting the proposed changes) or proposes that the pull request be closed without merging (rejecting the proposed changes). The Member should state the final commit hash in the pull request being proposed for acceptance or rejection and briefly summarize the pull request. A minimum of 80% of the Core Team must vote and at least 2/3 of the votes must be positive to carry out the proposed action (fractions of a vote rounded up to the nearest integer). Since the BDFL holds ultimate authority in The Project, the BDFL has authority to act alone in accepting or rejecting changes or overriding Core Team decisions.