Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship Concludes, Delivers Impressive Results

Hello everyone,

OSHWA has been busy this Open Hardware Month and we are so happy to be seeing so many wonderful things come out of it this year.

We are extremely proud to announce that our Open Source Creators in Academia Fellowship has reached its conclusion with the launch of our website featuring all our Fellows findings.
Explore the website here:


I don’t mean to be snarky. But it seems that most of the projects wouldn’t even meet the OSHWA definition for open hardware.

It seems somewhat perverse for OSHWA to take so much money from the Sloan Foundation during their exploration of open hardware funding. Invest it only in academia, and only in the USA. Then support projects that dump some STL and STEP files online with:

  • No ongoing open collaboration
  • No assembly instructions
  • No project details in the README
  • No original CAD files

For example: GitHub - prakashlab/inkwell: an electric-free blood-smearing device - How is this open hardware!?

Or others which provide no CAD and only some vague semi-documentation on parts of a project that are in accessible to others due to no designs being available:

For example:

I understand some projects were more “meta”, studying how open hardware is done in academia. But with 9 fellows at $50k-$100k a fellow, on the topic of “Open Hardware Creators in Academia” I would have really hoped to see quite a lot of hardware created and documented. Was hardware meeting the OSHWA definition contingent on funding hardware projects?

Maybe there is a cache of this and I was just unable to find it from the website?


Hey Julian,
I was wondering, what do you gain from making comments like this? I’m pretty sure that you -do- mean to be snarky and rude.

This is people’s work, and OSHWA is proud to support them in learning and exploring open hardware, wherever they are at in their learning process. The goal is not to simply produce open hardware for the sake of making it, but to allow people the space to research and explore. Not everyone arrives on this Earth fully producing comprehensive documentation, and in order to bring in new people, we have to support them and help them grow.

So many of these projects are very impressive and successful. Most of these folks gave talks about their work at the Open Hardware Summit last April, and those are available for free on the OSHWA YouTube channel.

Hi @Leeborg,

Respectfully, no, I am not trying to be rude I am trying to be honest without cowering behind the convention that says we can only say happy, nice, flowery things.

Your response response above is pretty disingenuous. It is worth referring back to the original announcement of this fellowship:

The one year fellowship provides $50,000 or $100,000 grants to individuals who are leading the way as open source hardware expands into academia. Documentation is key to open source hardware, and these Fellowships will support the development of documentation for how to successfully make open source hardware work across a broad spectrum of academic environments and departments.

Clearly from this announcement, the money was not for people “wherever they are at in their learning process”, but for “individuals who are leading the way as open source hardware expands into academia”. I feel that my expectation that documentation would be provided was not my own biases, but the identified by this fellowship annoucment as “key to open source hardware”. I don’t feel that “these Fellowships will support the development of documentation” is particularly ambiguous.

When money is taken from funders for “open source hardware” and that work doesn’t meet the OSHWA definition that reflects badly on us as a community, and it makes it harder to get follow up funding.

Never a truer statement was made. But as part of this we have to question what support was given to them to help them grow. Consider another mentorship program with considerably less funding, the Open Hardware Makers program. This program gave people systematic and clear guidance to ensure their projects put open documentation and designs online. Did OSHWA do this? and if not why not?

Calling something Open Source Hardware, when the source of it is not open damages the credibility of the entire field. No project is open source, until the source is released openly. OSHWA has come out strongly in support of this in the past. When OSHWA announces that this program has funded fellows who have “designed cutting-edge open source solutions”. This statement carries significant weight has more weight. People take from this that OSHWA says these solutions are open source.

So to clarify, I am not being snarky or rude about any specific projects work. I am sure that the fellows worked very hard. I am, however, shocked and disappointed that OSHWA failed to get projects to meet their own definition of open source, yet announced the work as open source anyway.


I do think Julian has a point in his critique and it should be addressed. Getting resources for open source hardware is not easy and if the few invested are not producing open source hardware, its a shame. I’m sure (or hope) this is ultimately not the case here and the fellows that are listed on OSHWA are all wonderful and deserve their funding. I havent checked the details of documentation they provided, but its true that the links posted by Juilian are not open source hardware. Probably they are behind with documentation (as I know from my own projects) but for OSHWA credibility would be great to follow up and make sure that the outputs are open source. Talks are not enough, we need open source hardware :wink:


My issue here is that it seems like we are being pretty selective in this discussion. There are may projects here that have documentation and resulted in great outputs. There are some that are stronger in certain areas, for example the project you pointed out has a paper (here and a summit talk (here Frugal science: Tackling societal challenges with curiosity, openness & a bit of play — Open Hardware Creators in Academia). Its true, you might not have a full github as is traditional in may open source projects, but there are results here and they are pretty impressive and they are open source. Some of that is meeting people where they are at.

We all know open source projects evolve and are works in progress. Its possible every aspect of these ambitious projects wasn’t fully realized at this time, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t open source. I feel like calling the results perverse is a stretch here.

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Papers are what academia has always done, if everything that has a paper and a talk on an impressive piece of hardware counts as “open source” then the term is meaningless. There is a definition for open source within hardware promoted by your organisation. It includes this statment:

1. Documentation
The hardware must be released with documentation including design files, and must allow modification and distribution of the design files. Where documentation is not furnished with the physical product, there must be a well-publicized means of obtaining this documentation for no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The documentation must include design files in the preferred format for making changes, for example the native file format of a CAD program.

Note the word must. Specifically: “The documentation must include design files in the preferred format for making changes, for example the native file format of a CAD program.”. Can you point me to the native CAD files for this project. The project has an information dump of STL and STEP files as I previously said. It is not selective to ignore the talk and the paper as they are not part of the open source hardware definition.

Deflecting to talks and papers is moving the goal posts. Show me the source, or it ain’t open source.

As an aside if someone actually wants the source files to work on automatic blood smearing. Autohaem by Samuel McDermott is actually open source. I does have talks and publications. It also has assembly instructions (Manual, Automatic); and all of the sources are on GitLab.

Samuel would have been looking for more funding as the time of Trailblazers. If OSHWA had been less USA focussed they could have funded people with a track record of actually releasing open source hardware.

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As someone who missed the deadline last year, I hope there are some incremental learnings that can come from this and that they have another round of applications this year.

The problem with academia is that there needs to be some systemic changes to the ecosystem. For example, when I review microfluidics papers, I spend a bunch of time highlighting missing CAD files, insufficient parametrization and studies necessary to standardize the designs. It feels a little pedantic at times.


For clarity, this was not a grant to fund hardware nor hardware documentation. The call for proposals specified that, as we were interested in the meta layer of sharing what it takes to get open hardware through the university systems through guides, case studies, lit reviews, etc. We will absolutely continue to clarify that point for future awards. The way the word documentation gets used in the open hardware community is almost always ubiquitous to ‘hardware documentation’ (and great job everyone everywhere for documenting your hardware!), but when we are talking about documentation here, we mean boarder documentation about open hardware in academia - not hardware documentation, which again we will work to clarify.

There is still quite a lot of forthcoming work stuck in accepted but not yet published timelines of academic Journals. More will be added as it comes available.

As we said when the call for proposals was released, as our first time granting money, we first wanted to make sure we understood how to do it with proper accounting and university structures with just one currency first (for example, we learned and struggled with “grant” as well as “fellowship” means different things financially at different universities). The geographical constraint was a mechanism to ensure we could responsibly manage these funds. It should be okay to learn something while taking things one step at a time. Our next round will be international, which we also said at the onset of this program.

I will support Leeborg’s personal perspectives here with my own very personal story: When I was first getting into open source in general, I went the open source software route, I tried several languages, but never fit in at any community meetings or online forums. I was asked where my boyfriend was, never called on, and was continuously discounted for being female or a noob. As we’ve seen, it turns out open source software communities as a whole have been quite toxic to underrepresented and marginalized groups - which, to their credit, they are trying to change. I jumped ship to open hardware, a much more inviting community. Ayah and I put on the first Open Hardware Summit and vowed that open source hardware would be a different more inviting community than software.

I don’t speak up often about my own struggles in software for so many reasons, but I have to say, this feels a little similar to open software. So I speak up now because I don’t want this community to be seen as too toxic for new participants to join - that hurts everyone, but especially marginalized and underrepresented folks - AND I want to show people that I’m here for them when they think this community isn’t for them. Be careful with words and tone, they cause imposter syndrome in seconds, though it takes years to fix. The folks who were awarded these grants are on or lurking on these forums as scientists in the open hardware community. Consider that the first welcome they got is someone dissing on hardware for not being open enough when hardware was never the intention of the grant seems rather uninviting and uneducated about what this work intends. I’m not saying there’s no room for critique, but there are ways to ensure your tone is kind and welcoming even when critiquing. You can start with phrases like with I wonder… what if… let’s try… “I wonder if the creator thought of x …” (as a genuine curiosity, not a passive aggressive dig) or a thought exercise of “What if the grant covered y instead of the thing it did cover” or “We’re trying to replicate your thing, but got stuck here, can you help me out?” It is also okay to find someone to uplift. When academics critique all the time, it also creates an unwelcoming community, which is antithetical to openness in it’s own way.
With compassion, Alicia

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So for clarity, “open source creators” is not for people creating open source.

But your own website links to hardware repository outputs with zero documentation as “documentation”.

Alicia, seriously, are we going there. I was careful with my examples to pick Professors at major American universities. This is not about open source hardware being welcoming. This is about big-shot well-funded professors absorbing all of the funding from the community and not giving back.

This is not an establishment picking on the little guy thing. You are THE Open Source Hardware Association, you police the open source hardware definition. You got hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund Professors in major US institutions. You in this case are the establishment. I am a self-employed nobody who failed to make it in academia as I cared about actually making the source of my hardware open. As I plod along, contract-to-contract trying to make ends meet I will always support small creators trying to be more open. But when professors in some of the best funded institutions in the world absorb money in the name of the open source hardware community… I would hope to either see some open source hardware, or some well researched guidance. A non-documented hardware project with no source is neither.

This is getting personal, Julian. I’m sorry you did not qualify the fellowship this year, and we hope to see you apply to the Summit, or at a number of other initiatives we have.

I am very curious to know the budget you think OSWHA has. Our tiny team is almost all part time and basically work grant - to - grant as well. We are not the establishment. We don’t “police” anything.

To try to de-escalate things a bit:

I will vouch that Julian was sincerely not trying to be snarky at all in his first post. He’s been working deep in open source and open source communities that work with VERY LITTLE RESOURCES and needs of which are often overlooked by large western countries and mainstream academia. He is also deep into open source science stuff and has met the same frustrations many of us have had trying to rebuild an “open project.”

On top of that he, along with many of us (like me!) were still quite hurt when that fellowship call came out last year and saw how it intentionally excluded people outside 1) the USA 2) academic institutions.

This really struck to the core of the gosh ethos as a community based on working in anti-colonialist, anarchist ideals spending an inordinate amount of our time bringing in people outside of institutions and rich countries. The thing that stings is that our money in the teo organizations came from the same place, so we all know what strings are and aren’t attached. And yes it takes a TON of work trying to get money to people outside the usa and outside of large institutions, but we managed to do it with only our one paid employee (@briannaljohns ) to tons of different groups in the past years and it makes a big impact.

We also know how much work goes into documenting things well, and so it can also sting when people publish something as “open” from an institution with gobs of funding and resources and the documentation is paltry.

This is honestly my main motivation for running for the OSHWA board. I was really saddened to see the exclusions in place, and so decided to sign up to see if i can 1) better connect our communities 2) help oshwa work towards being more inclusive of people outside institutions and the USA. (Btw was so happy to see OSHWA in Canada this year!) So im looking forward as a new board member to try to help this as i can!

So all that being said, as someone who has worked with Julian fkr years, he definitely has a very direct and straightforward manner that i can see coming across as grumpy (especially reading things online). He has literally lost his job in academia because of his moral bearing in that science should be open. He has a nit-picky eye for specific details as well that i can see can come across as jerky. He can sometimes phrase things that may come across as aggressive, but he’s genuinely worried about making open source better with everything he does.

Hopefully this can provide a bit of extra context to all involved


I think that clarity was helpful, thanks :slight_smile:

Also congrats on running the fellowship in general. We can always have suggestions and jdeas for improvement , but successfully running anything that is a general positive thing in the world is difficult to do! I did follow the people doing stuff and was happy to see stuff developing.


Anyway just want to add the point that hey, it’s great anyone can get anything done! In the grand scheme of things we are all very tiny and have to fight battles constantly.

We all also have to try to communicate these challenges and pains we feel in many different ways. And our communication formats are not great!

There’s also huge power dynamics at play , financial (salaried people vs part timers, vs entirely volunteer labor), gender, countries and races of communities we work with.

In general i would say Julian could learn and has been working on communicating in more sensitive ways about big things that concern him, but it’s also very important to listen to people who have been hurting and working far on the fringes of society and funding.

It’s all really hard folks. Everyone is hurting. Please try to be kind and listen to each other. You are all great, please don’t fight:)

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I, as a staff member, was also disappointed that this was only academia and only US. I am not American, and feel the movement is way too US central and I hope it see it grow.

But it’s part of growing and we have to start somewhere. I just want us to help each other grow instead of holding each other back and being hyper critical. Obviously I don’t think everything OSHWA or even me as a single person does is perfect, but we are all certainly trying and sometimes it feels like it’s never enough. I would rather see people offer to help. We work really hard to reach people, but it’s a process. And I think if you look broadly at our fellows (Summit Fellows too), speakers etc we are doing a decent job, and excited to do an even better job as we progress.


Hi folks,

chiming in to support the “de-escalate team” :slight_smile:
I agree with Andy that everyone here is trying to push for OSH and everyone is trying their best way to make that happen.

At the same time, seems there could be benefits into assuming less of what people mean when getting opinions in written format (where it is hard to convey emotions, etc) and also on spending a bit more time when phrasing things, exact for the same reason…

One nice thing that came out of this, at least in my point of view, is that more info about fellowship came out, including some of the struggles and lessons learned.

Again agreeing with Andy and trying to add a bit (if I may) I think a lot of the ones listed here (and in many other threads) are things other members in this community (and elsewhere) have had to go through in the past! Certainly the GOSH members have been quite open about process of distributing the money that has been awarded by Sloan for GOSH inc (GOSH foundation?) including funds for people outside the US, in smaller amounts, for people not necessarily affiliated to institutions, etc… My point is that collectively we have knowledge that would allow us to make much better use of the opportunities that appear. Maybe involving GOSH+OSHWA folks in the entire grant process would leverage those things (as in, getting in touch for suggestions on the format of programs/fellowships, experiences in paying folks outside US, etc)…

I do have some other comments that I think could be constructive for the next iteration of the program if this is planned, but I don’t want to add more here right now, not to stir things further…


For sure. I’ve been learning a ton lurking on the forums about how things get done at GOSH. Which is really managed in such a different way from OSHWA. The community helps in a way which I think makes a lot more possible and something I hope we can make happen, and that’s important to consider. While our board volunteers, it’s not the same as this community - it’s really special.

Collaborating is great! Let’s do more!

We are for sure open to improving and critiquing the program, without throwing individual creators under the bus.

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It seems ironic to talk OS which is about Openess and then restricting access only to Academia.

Kind of like a monopoly company talking OS in there field.

Ought to elicit some reactions :slight_smile:

There’s a diagram of a plane that makes the rounds now and then that shows where returning bombers had been hit during WWII missions. It highlights “survivorship bias” because the immediate reaction was to reinforce the armor where the planes were being hit. Except those were the planes that were still able to make it home despite the damage.

Where I’m going with this is that there are correlations to how funding gets granted out by organizations.

Looking at the awarded Fellowships, the recipients all appear to be extremely impressive. Lots of papers and projects and experience associated with their names.

All the kinds of things that someone can do when they’re well-resourced, well-supported, and equipped for success.

What I didn’t see was people who surprised me. A community college professor looking to open a maker space on campus, or a small community leader that has been helping high schoolers get into STEM pre-college. Etc.

I didn’t see anyone based outside of North America.

I can give money to NASA all day long and not have much to show for it; but I could also give that money to a community rocketeer club and evolve their entire program.

It’s easy to want to give money to highly visible recipients. It makes for good future fund raising. But it also runs the risk of simply piling more branches into the bonfire. Funding needs to also consider how it could ignite sometime new.

This funding mission may not have specifically sought out less visible candidates, but moving forward, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having funds aimed primarily at those less visible candidates. Especially since academia has largely, even recently, been hostile towards the open source movement.

The attitude is changing; but the heart and soul of open source is still largely found outside the classroom.


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@leeborg I don’t see this conversation going anywhere. I object to the fact that you have directly accused me of rudeness and of acting in bad faith, rather than not actually addressing dealing with the content of what I have said.

For the sake of clarity I feel I can’t let this one rest.

OSHWA heavily promotes a certification scheme tied to their Open Source Hardware definition. That certification system sets OSHWA up as the one entity who can enforce compliance through courts and collect fines. That to me seems like policing. I don’t think it is a bad faith comment to make.

Anyway, it is clear that what started off as robust criticism of the outputs of a well-funded program for trailblazers in the field have been contorted into unfair criticism of those new to the community. This was never my intention. If within our community cannot criticise well funded programs for creating content that is Open Source Hardware In Name Only, without being accused of toxicity then healthy debate is lost.

I stand by the comments I made. If it is the view of the community is that my posts were:

  • “rude”
  • “il-intentioned”
  • “in bad faith”, and
  • reminiscent of the software’s community misogynistic attacks @Alicia faced in the software community.

Then clearly I am the problem, and I shall leave the community

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