Article on Open Hardware

Hi Everyone,

@rbowman and I were asked by The Conversation to write a piece about our recent paper on how the Covid ventilator projects have shown the importance of making the entire design phase open rather than simply sharing a complete design. The final article in the conversation just went online, it is very much an overview for non-specialists with a lot of help making it readable from a fantastic editor.



Frelling awesome, thanks! Hadn’t seen your paper yet.


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Hi Everyone,

Long time, no hugs.

Great article, Julian.

A related article came out, and instead of starting a new thread, I figured I would throw it on this (small) pile. It’s written in part by Michael Weinberg, President of OSHWA.

I think you might like it.


Thanks for the link, @biomurph, very interesting as well.

Also, @julianstirling , I wanted to tell you that what you describe in your paper, on each and every aspect, is word-by-word what we went through in Brazil. If you ever continue to work on this issue and would like to know more, I can tell you some of it or put you in touch with folks who were even more involved.

We had it all, from manufacturers and engineers, willing to collaborate, petitioning universities to honor their abandoned promises of “openness” that had gotten them public attention and even crowdfunding (and code and labour, while they were still “open”); entire groups de-mobilized after they bet on letting the university lead as they considered it had more legitimacy to aggregate efforts; hackers joining meetings of government regulatory agencies to call for public policies that would foster Open Design etc … it was really frustrating and the lessons learned are very well described in your article. Mega kudos!

I particularly liked the subtitle “open is for life”. You can’t spring openness out of thin air just because there is an emergency. The sociotechnical conditions of practices and infrastructures for openness must be part of the system, there must be a culture of openness - which, of course, would bring us benefits not only in such extreme situations.



Thanks @solstag. It is good to know that others in the community feel we accurately presented the situation. However, I suppose it would be better if others had a more positive and productive experience.

There was so much energy and comradery in those first weeks, it felt like we were getting somewhere. It felt like the world was taking notice of open hardware. This energy has now evaporated, partly I think due to lockdown fatigue!

I am not sure if we will be doing more “big picture” this is why we need to be open work in the near future. As physicists, we are underqualified to really assess systematically the issues faced across the world, but we would love to support any social scientists that were interested in the topic.

Our key focus as of now is more on the software and workflows for transitioning from open prototyping to distributed manufacturing. It would be good to have a chat sometime with you and others you worked with. Once we have a skeleton idea of how this could work we need to run it past people in many different contexts. We need to make sure we are developing something that will be able to work for everyone, not just us.


Ni! Sure, what you’re doing sounds great, count on me / us. (=

Excellent !

We also wrote a shorter article touching very similar points, for the Canadian Science Policy Center.
When thousands of citizens innovate: how policy-makers can contribute

We propose to put a name on this phenomena in order to have it recognized and allow it to work its way into the mainstream. If we don’t name it it doesn’t really exist. OSH refers to a type of product / production. Commons-based peer production doesn’t capture the imagination of bureaucrats, the economists might like it. Our communication strategy has been to use existing patterns and add an extension. Thus, we have decided to use the term 4th Sector. So we have the public, private, cooperative (also known as the 3rd Sector) and now we have the emergence of the 4th Sector. I invite GOSH affiliates to join forces with us and propagate the 4th Sector meme and further develop the concept. Remember, there was a time when coops and non-profit organizations didn’t exist, social economy didn’t exist, social entrepreneurship didn’t exist, there were no governmental programs to fund such things. We need to build this 4th Sector the same way we build the 3rd Sector.

Learn more about the 4th Sector - see also the Rationale for the 4th Sector
Learn more about Sensorica and open science.

Let’s think in terms of network of networks and build some bridges between the Sensorica community and COSH on this topic. If you’re interested in this proposition we can discuss ways to go further.