Published June 23, 2023 | Version v1
Report Open

Supporting Open Science Hardware in Academia: Policy Recommendations for Science Funders and University Managers

  • 1. Center for Science, Technology & Society, Drexel University (US); Universidad Nacional de San Martín (Argentina)
  • 1. Moorcrofts Lawyers
  • 2. UC2
  • 3. Baylor College of Medicine
  • 4. Code for Science and Society
  • 5. Appropedia Foundation
  • 6. University of Cambridge
  • 7. AfricaOSH
  • 8. TecSci
  • 9. OurSci
  • 10. Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología Argentina
  • 11. UNESCO
  • 12. MboaLab
  • 13. Thorlabs, Inc.
  • 14. openEphys / Allen Institute for Neural Dynamics
  • 15. Western University
  • 16. The Francis Crick Institute / TReND in Africa
  • 17. Open Source Ecology Germany
  • 18. Wellcome Trust
  • 19. Open@RIT
  • 20. Open Source Hardware Association
  • 21. Universidad de Buenos Aires
  • 22. University of Bath / Deloitte Digital
  • 23. University of Glasgow
  • 24. Utrecht University
  • 25. Internet of Production Alliance
  • 26. Carnegie Mellon University
  • 27. Open Environmental Data Project
  • 28. TalTech / Harvard University
  • 29. Universidad Nacional de Rosario



Executive summary

“Open science hardware” (OSH) refers to any piece of hardware used for scientific research that can be obtained, assembled, used, studied, modified, shared, and sold by anyone. It includes standard lab equipment as well as auxiliary materials.

This report explains how research institutions and science funders can better promote open science hardware.

Researchers today are both developers and users of OSH. Their work is essential for users inside and outside academia, but they get no institutional support. Tech transfer offices are a natural contact point, but their IP-focused work pushes OSH out of their scope. Most OSH developers are early career researchers who find it impossible to make their work visible for promotion. Today there is a real risk of losing key personnel.

--> What can institutions do TODAY: Legitimize & Nurture

Institutions can immediately support OSH by incorporating it as a core component of open science strategies, by building institutional capabilities at TTOs or OSPOs for supporting practitioners, and by raising awareness through students’ and researchers training to incentivize OSH demand.

--> What can institutions do NEXT: Standardize & Recognize

A necessary follow up for an OSH strategy includes enforcing documentation standards for OSH, creating Research Hardware Engineer roles for OSH developers, and including OSH as a pathway in entrepreneurship training and business incubators.

--> What can institutions do LONG TERM: Assess & Reinforce

A long-term vision for establishing OSH demands developing criteria for assessing its broader social impact and incentivizing professionalization through minimal OSH preference in purchase policies.

Timing is key:

Enforcing standards can only happen once OSH work is recognized and incentivized, otherwise there is risk of generating “just another checklist”. Nurturing OSH business models will set the foundations for professionalizing OSH, necessary for implementing purchase preference policies.

About the Report

This document was written by Dr. Julieta Arancio as part of her postdoctoral work, based on the results of a real-time Delphi survey with OSH experts (see contributors in this record).

Special thanks to Dr. Gwen Ottinger, who provided extremely valuable insights for turning various drafts into the final document, and to the experts who provided their valuable input for this study. Report and website design by SAYGRID.

Access to the Real-Time Delphi platform was kindly provided by 4strat. Anonymized raw data can be accessed at 10.5281/zenodo.8074180. A full description of methods can be found in the pdf document.


This work was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, grant number 2020-14078.



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