Scope of the Open.Make project.

| September 27, 2021

Original post (2021-09-27) has been updated (2023-12-14).

The problem(s)

Have you ever tried to follow instructions on how to assemble something and get stuck, either due to a lack of clarity or missing information? This can be annoying enough when you are trying to setup a new piece of furniture, but when your goal is to replicate someone’s research1, these annoyances create an additional burden. In the worst case, the research cannot be replicated and the research process is significantly slowed down. Accordingly, there is also a growing school of thought aiming to establish an open hardware (OH) strategy for academia2. Indeed, open hardware (together with open access publishing, open data, and free/libre open source software) is becoming an important pillar of responsible research and innovation 3.

On the other hand, from the perspective of the researchers designing the (hardware) components for an experiment, the situation is less than ideal. They are under strong time constraints, their hardware is constantly modified in reaction to unexpected outcomes that are inherent to the research process. In addition, they cannot expect much recognition for the documentation they would produce, and even researchers having the will and time to document their hardware may abandon, once they realise they do not know how to produce useful documentation.


In this project, we intend to contribute to the establishment of an open and FAIR4 hardware strategy in academia, as well as to improve the quality or hardware documentation. While this goal is shared with other projects and communities, we will particularly focus on the prototyping of an hardware publication (eco-)system.

In a first phase (2021-2023), we have investigated the current practices concerning hardware documentation and its (exisiting and potential) importance for researchers and engineers career. On the other hand, we are working on the application of open and FAIR principles4 to hardware inside the international RDA4RH group. This helps us frame the technical and social requirements the hardware publication system should fulfill. We are also producing guidance materials to ease the documentation of hardware and to help researchers creating FAIR documentation from the start of their project.

The second phase (2023-2026), we will adapt software tools to prototype a hardware peer review, certification and publication system, as well as build a community of makers inside the four BUA universities. More details available in this blog post.

  1. Under the assumption that starting from scratch is not a requirement ↩︎

  2. The Gathering for Open Science Hardware community is very active in this regard. ↩︎

  3. See for an overview of the responsible research and innovation importance in europe. ↩︎

  4. The FAIR principles were created with datasets in mind, and were recently adapted to research software by the FAIR Principles for Research Software (FAIR4RS Principles) RDA group. The principles states that research outputs should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. ↩︎