Talking about Ubiquity 25 with you (started with ambassador WG)

Dear friends,

I was having an interesting conversation with the ambassador working group, and an aspect of the discussion was so compelling that we’ve decided to open it up to everyone and get more ideas, more feedback.

Last year, Liz started this poll to get ideas on what we would like to do with funding money. One idea that folks seem to really like is:

  • Fund existing projects that have the potential to be ubiquitous in their area of science
    Fund existing projects that can demonstrate potential for ubiquity in its field. It’s like finding an open source and taking it to a commercial level of polish and performance that it completely dominates the market, achieving ubiquity in one area of science. This would entail funding of several tens of thousands of USD over a year or more.

I’ve come to think of this initiative as Ubiquity 25, and @TOKO had quite a bit to say about the goal. I’ll copy the start of the exchange, and @TOKO will copy in his response, and so on. You all please jump in!

I started with:

I’m very glad you brought up Africa, I see so much opportunity there, despite not having spent much time on that continent, which is why I hope the next gathering will be held in Africa (but not necessarily South Africa, as I have already been there!)

(Snip: not germane)

Getting back to OScH, it’s pretty clear to me that ubiquity will not be achieved by 2025, for any meaningful definition of “ubiquity”. But we can do something, and that’s where Africa comes in.

Last year the council sought suggestions on what to fund, and a favourite was what I now refer to as ubiquity 25: choose a project to back such that by applying all our collective shoulders to that wheel, we push it over the top and become ubiquitous – dominant, even – in its field. That field could be like ecology of moths, (as in Andrew’s mothbox project), or it could be geographical (like Jenny’s reagent project in Kenya). But the idea is concentration of force to establish a beach head, learn from it, and repeat in other fields.

I would like to hear if we can do that in Africa.

Here I’d like to expand on Ubiquity 25.

The idea is to involve everyone in the community to back 1 project, and the concentration of effort ought to improve the chances of that project becoming ubiquitous in its field, by 2025.

By ubiquity here I mean not just commonplace in its field, but also eponymous like the way we say Kleenex instead of tissue paper. And to be so far-and-away the best in its class that this high standard of performance crowds out proprietary wannabes.

By performance I mean not just that this OScH device works exceptionally well, but that there exists infrastructure supporting this OScH device, from troubleshooting, to manufacture, to UI/UX, etc. It will be all hands on board, regardless of your skill set. Even marketing: we may need to find PhD students to use the OScH device, then publish a paper on it.

By field, I mean not just the scientific discipline/subdiscipline, but also geographically. So we can look at any region that is perhaps under-served. Anywhere that OScH can carve out its turf.

We’ll need funding for this. We’ll need to find an appropriate project to back, and flesh out all the work that needs to be done. Then we can be very specific and very detailed in dealing with funding sources.

@TOKO would you like to add your insight?


sounds cool, and has a totally badass name!

Thought provoking and actionable points you present @Harold. Wouldn’t be wonderful to have a shortlist of potential projects, categorized per region?

Yes, indeed @Karl! We need to list out the projects that are suitable for this initiative. Do you have any that come immediately to mind?

I have been using @hikinghack 's Mothbox as an example, because I’m more familiar with it. Also because:

  • It’s an existing project, so we know right off that it isn’t vaporware. We wouldn’t want to back a project without some assurance that it will be viable.
  • The project is at a readiness level roughly aligned with our time line.
  • It’s in a pretty new and under-served market niche (insect ecology) with little hardware competition. If proprietary hardware has neglected it, we should pay attention to the opportunity.
  • Has potentially broad appeal from professionals to amateurs, rich and poor, and is generally inclusive and not exclusive. The greater the customer catchment area, the better our prospects.
  • It is accepted by and as mainstream science, which is crucial to establishing legitimacy.

There are unanswered questions though (there are others I haven’t though of):

  • How to manufacture it, at what production rate and lead time?
  • How (else) can we make the project attractive to funding sources? Hopefully we can rise above buzzwords and cliches.

Can you think of suitable projects? Can you think of what other factors we should take into consideration in ranking the desirability of projects?

My horizon is limited, I know there are others who can see wider. Please share what you see!

Sure here is it :

Hello Harold,

Your observation regarding the interests of individuals joining GOSH is insightful and aligns well with the findings from the systematic review I conducted, as well as with the ideas that emerged from the workshop on the growth of Open Science Hardware (OSH) in Africa, for which I am preparing the report.

Indeed, few people (at least those we have managed to attract so far) from Africa work directly in Open Science Hardware. However, they are generally individuals with an interest in OS broadly. They are often innovators who do not see themselves as scientists and who work to create tools that can facilitate the resolution of societal problems.

To grow the movement and aim for “ubiquity” in the next two years, it would be interesting to implement a strategy with two main phases. First, identify the key socio-economic change needs that can be solved through open hardware innovation. This will allow us to simultaneously identify innovators working in this field or potential youths with the energy and motivation to solve these problems with the philosophy of Open Science. Africa’s demographic advantage leads me to believe that we will find these individuals. These individuals can be connected with their peers from Africa and other continents to form project teams focused on solving local problems. Once this is done, these innovators, who have already completed undergraduate studies and have tested the practical aspects (often absent in education in Africa), will be easier to ‘transform’ into OSH activists through opportunities to pursue research-focused studies.

A textual analysis of articles addressing OSH in Africa has allowed us to understand that SDGs 9, 3, 4, and 15 have been the subject of previous reflection. Actions to develop industry, innovation, and infrastructure with good governance, quality education, and good health are needed.

I believe that with the initiatives that the council has already launched and projects like Jenny’s in Kenya, if we can multiply similar pilot projects that solve fundamental problems in sustainable agriculture (ecology and resilience to the effects of climate change), health (to help improve healthcare), and education (by generalizing the use of low-cost kits to teach science), we will make great progress.

But the idea is to concentrate efforts to establish a beachhead, learn from it, and then repeat the experience in other areas.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the continent is vast, and once initiatives are tested and proven, scaling up is often at an exponential rate for projects. I will advocate for this approach of creating small innovation hubs with the vision to test approaches, identify the best, and facilitate knowledge transfer.

I also wanted to highlight that across the continent, we have nascent initiatives promoting research.

In my country, Benin, the government is ensuring the development of a Sub-regional Innovation Hub called Sèmè City (Home - Sèmè City), which has an X-ray Techniques Laboratory ( A nascent ecosystem with innovators and scientists trying to advance research. I was thinking that it could also be a potential location for organizing the next gathering.

Returning to the point regarding the supervision of ambassadors, we do not want to ensure supervision that will direct the ambassadors’ approaches, but rather to ensure monitoring that allows us to have a record of the actions undertaken by each to be able to evaluate and better inform our future actions for achieving our ubiquity objectives.

Building on the previous message, I proposed, for example, an open innovation initiative to promote Open Scientific Hardware (OSH). Apply here for GOSH’s 2022 Regional Events Funding! (Round 1) - #3 by TOKO

In line with our objectives to expand the reach and impact of Open Science Hardware (OSH), I have proposed an initiative that not only champions open innovation but also places a strong emphasis on education as a vehicle for spreading awareness of the OSH movement.

I envision a project that integrates OSH into science education, making it an integral part of the curriculum. This would not only introduce students and educators to the practical and collaborative aspects of OSH but also inspire them to become active participants in the movement.

For instance, consider the project “Unveiling the Potential of Foldscope in Science Education Across Africa” (Unveiling the potential of foldscope in science education across Africa. | Experiment). This initiative is a prime example of how low-cost scientific tools can revolutionize learning and open up new opportunities for discovery. By incorporating such tools into our educational project, we can make science more accessible, engaging, and interactive for students across the continent.

Such initiatives not only foster a deeper understanding of science but also encourage innovation and problem-solving from a young age. By tapping into the natural curiosity and ingenuity of students, we can cultivate a generation of thinkers and makers who are equipped to tackle the challenges of the future with open-source solutions.


Are you looking for ubiquity in terms of becoming a household name, or just dominance in a particular field/geography?

If the latter then it’s probably just a case of picking something in a tiny niche (or new field) with little existing competition.

If the former, I’d propose the OpenFlexure microscope (which is how I learned about GOSH). I’d suggest that marketing an affordable everything-but-the-filament kit, with a decent social media campaign around what you can see with your OFM, could turn it into the number one home science project.

Similarly its use for malaria diagnostics in Tanzania may be another route to ubiquity. The nice thing is that ubiquity in each field benefit adoption in other fields.

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The latter, but the former would be ok too, as one does not exclude the other.

Similarly its use for malaria diagnostics in Tanzania may be another route to ubiquity. The nice thing is that ubiquity in each field benefit adoption in other fields.

Would you be willing to champion OFM for U25? In your analysis (not opinion), what is preventing OFM from being used everywhere that it can be used? I think that would be a good start.

Keep 'em coming! I love this!

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Just bumping UBIQUITY 25! and even though it’s only 2024, it starts now! Especially, now that we have a place chosen for GOSH 2025

Announcing the location partner for the next Gathering! GOSH 2025 - Bali

one of the most important things folks in GOSH can do to help out right now are:

  • talk to people about GOSH!
  • Plug it at any events you go to!
  • See if cool events will let you give a short talk or plug to get involved with GOSH
  • IF you are near SOUTHEAST ASIA! Go talk with people about GOSH and the upcoming gathering as much as you can! (Not a bad excuse to take some extra trips to bali!)
  • Do a tiny workshop or something and get people involved!
  • Social Media Posts: Anyone wants to make a cute little graphic just promoting GOSH 2025 - Bali? Please do and help out!

This condo is stalled out a little bit, but I think it’s a really good important idea.

Let’s champion something and help make it as ubiquitous as possible in the next year.

And I’m just going to go and push to nominate something like @julianstirling et al’s Open flexure microscope.

It’s been like the most talked about and used and replicated project from gosh that I’ve heard about personally. It’s already gone through a whole bunch of iterations. And I feel like this could be a cool time for the community kind of reflect on it and focus our powers to make it just extra super awesome.

Plus like spin-offs like @julianstirling 's field dissection microscope have already been replicated in the wild!

Check out what some guy already did on his own from Julian’s instructions!


So what say you all? Anything else to nominate to champion?


Hi Andrew,

Just riffing on the OFM idea, let’s say someone (the would-be champion) working in Kenya notices a need for dissecting microscopes there. At the moment samples are taken from the field into a central lab for analysis, where there is equipment (I’m completely making up this cartoonish scenario). Doing the work in the field would be quicker, so digging around a bit he sees the “market” is say 500 field-ready microscopes and a similar number of trained techs to use them; He talks to some GOSH people about what a training programme for these techs would look like. He talks to other GOSH members about modifying the OFM, maybe it needs a field case. Maybe OFM needs to be characterised in a particular aspect. Maybe a modified logo is desired. Maybe parts suppliers or fabricators need to be consulted. Can it piggyback on an existing community support network or must one be built from scratch? All these people constitute the Ub25 WG.

With all this leg work done, the WG has basically figured how OFM can be made ubiquitous in Kenya in the area of field microscopes, how much it will cost, what work needs to be done, and how long it will take.

Rather than filling in forms by a certain deadline to secure funding, WG then approaches various funding agencies directly with a very specific, very detailed funding proposal and business proposition, offering them a chance to participate in this campaign to become ubiquitous within this niche. The agency gets to stand alone in this field with no peers. Perhaps it gets naming rights.

Andrew thanks for being the de facto champion for OFM idea.