Demo Day: Contributing to PSL projects

How to help software projects in the Policy Simulation Library.

Jason DeBacker


March 2, 2021

In the most recent PSL Demo Day, I illustrate how to contribute to PSL projects. The open source nature of projects in the PSL catalog allows anyone to contribute. The modularity of the code, coupled with robust testing, means that one can bite off small pieces that help improve the models and remain confident those changes work as expected.

To begin the process of finding where to contribute to PSL projects, I advise looking through the PSL GitHub Organization to see what projects interest you. Once a project of interest is identified, looking over the open “Issues” can provide a sense of where model maintainers and users are looking for help (see especially the “Help Wanted” tags). It is also completely appropriate to create a new Issue to express interest in helping and ask for direction on where that might best be done given your experience and preferences.

When you are ready to begin to contribute to a project, you’ll want to fork and clone the GitHub repository to help you get the files on your local machine and ready for you to work with. Many PSL projects outline the detailed steps to get you up and running. For example, see the Tax-Calculator Contributor Guide, which outlines the step-by-step process for doing this and confirming that everything works as expected on your computer.

After you are set up and ready to begin modifying source code for the PSL project(s) you’re interested in contributing to, you can reference the PSL-incubating Git-Tutorial project that provides more details on the Git workflow followed by most PSL projects.

As you contribute, you may want to get more involved in the community. A couple ways to do this are to join any of the PSL community events, all of which are open to the public, and to post to the PSL Discourse Forums. These are great places to meet community members and ask questions about how and where to best contribute.

I hope this helps you get started as a PSL contributor – we look forward to getting you involved in making policy analysis better and more transparent!