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Snapshots of Communities in the Hardware and Open Science Ecosystem

Created through a collaboration with the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE) these scientific community profiles are snapshots of converging communities in the open science ecosystem that are working to open the process and products of science. 

To better understand how open hardware and adjacent communities converge, we (the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center) worked with the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE) and community managers on a special collection featuring organizations relevant to low-cost and open hardware from a range of perspectives. The profiles document how these communities function, and help situate low-cost and open hardware within the context of other open movements.

Spotlight Projects

Background on the Project

  • To better understand how open hardware and adjacent communities converge, we (the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Wilson Center) worked with the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE) and community managers on a special collection featuring organizations relevant to low-cost and open hardware from a range of perspectives. The profiles document and analyze how these communities function, and help situate low-cost and open hardware within the context of other open movements. 

    We gathered data using a custom survey, developed by CSCCE and with feedback from the CSCCE community profiles working group (you can find out more about how CSCCE conducts this kind of research here). We modified the survey and methods used for previous iterations of community profiles to better understand how these communities saw themselves within the broader open science ecosystem. The standardized profile template allows us to compare communities and explore unique and overlapping goals, success stories, and challenges. 

  • We chose a set of communities that either center on, or align with, low-cost and open hardware and with the open science ecosystem more broadly. Some of these communities identify strongly with our core focus of understanding and analyzing low-cost and open hardware in academic and policy communities; the Gathering for Open Science Hardware and the Open Source Hardware Association, for example, convene the open science hardware and the open source hardware communities, respectively. 

    Despite our core focus on “hardware” communities, we find that including adjacent communities, which may or may not self-identify as being related to hardware, best represent a range of perspectives. For example, Code for Science and Society primarily deals with open source software (OSS) issues and digital infrastructure, and low-cost and open source hardware communities can overlap and pull best practices from OSS. The Challenge and Prize Community of Practice community “supports and encourages the use of incentivized competitions to attract and engage the public”; prizes and challenges are one common way for federal practitioners to spur the creation of low-cost and open hardware to “meet critical government needs.” 

    We also sought to profile different types of communities. Some communities are more grassroots, while others were initiated on the federal level. Some members of these communities actually do the “making,” while others focus on coordinating. Profiling each of these communities gives us a clearer understanding of how the priorities, goals, and values of each community determine their structure and function. 

  • This initiative is a part of a portfolio of work exploring the communities and paradigms in the hardware and open science ecosystem. The soon-to-be-published interactive Open Sourced Science is a collection of stories documenting the impact of communities on an eclectic mix of initiatives and research areas in paradigms like open source hardware, citizen science, and open source software. 

    Open Sourced Science and the profiles above highlight how the work of these mostly decentralized communities push the boundaries of access to science. These communities work to advocate for their members; they also collaborate with “adjacent” communities towards similar goals and mutual benefit.

This set of profiles is a collaboration between the Wilson Center's THING Tank and the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE). Subscribe to our email lists to get notified as more profiles are added.

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