Open Hardware: An Opportunity to Build Better Science

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Written by
Shannon Dosemagen

Open Hardware: An Opportunity to Build Better Science

A new report on open hardware for science has been published by the Wilson Center Science Technology and Innovation Program, authored by Alison Parker, Shannon Dosemagen, Jenny Molloy, Anne Bowser, and Alexandra Novak.

Today’s research infrastructure, including scientific hardware, is unevenly distributed in the scientific community, severely limiting collaboration, customization, and impact. Open hardware for science provides an alternative approach to reliance on expensive and proprietary instrumentation while giving “people the freedom to control their technology while sharing knowledge and encouraging commerce through the open exchange of design.”

Open hardware can be modified and recombined to build diverse libraries of tools that serve as a freely available resource for use across several disciplines. By improving access to tools, open hardware for science encourages collaboration, accelerates innovation, and improves scientific reproducibility and repeatability. Open hardware for science is often less expensive than proprietary equivalents, allowing research laboratories to stretch funding further. Beyond scientific research, open hardware has proven to benefit and impact a number of complementary policy priorities including: broadening public participation in science, accessible experiential STEM education, crisis response, and improving distributed manufacturing capabilities.

Because of recent, bipartisan progress in open science, the U.S. government is well positioned to elevate and enhance the impact of open hardware in American science. By addressing key implementation challenges and prioritizing open hardware for science, we as a nation can build better infrastructure for future science, cement U.S. scientific leadership and innovation, and help the U.S. prepare for future crises. This report addresses the need to build a stronger foundation for science by prioritizing open hardware, describes the unique benefits of open hardware alongside complementary policy priorities, and briefly lays out implementation challenges to overcome.

Read the report here: