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Survey results are in for the demand for open-source hardware in research + education

last modified Apr 30, 2019 02:12 PM
A few months ago, André Maia Chagas (Mozilla Fellow, TReND in Africa collaborator, and co-founder of Prometheus Science) conducted a survey to better understand what tools and resources researchers, educators, DIYers and curious individuals were lacking in order to conduct scientific experiments. In the second stage of the project, André and his team hope to engage communities and collectively build the tools to address these needs through a call for participation in a building event.

More about the project

- A lot of the tools used in science are developed (at least their first prototypes/starting ideas) inside universities and laboratories funded with public money. In order to bring these tools to market, these ideas are patented and licensed to a company that will then take all steps necessary (and there are a lot of them) to bring these ideas to a commercial state. 

- This is good in the sense that universities and the industry can work in collaboration to leverage each others’ strengths. But it is bad in the sense that something that had a lot of public investment becomes closed by default.

- Trying to remedy this problem, we would like to build Open Source Scientific Hardware, something that is being done by several groups/communities around the globe. A bit different (as far as we know) is that we are trying to map what researchers need and build following these needs, with the rationale that we can maximize the benefits of our efforts by building tools that are needed by a large number of users, so we are dividing this project into steps:


  1. Map the demand (This started as a collaboration between Prometheus Science and “Rede de Pesquisadores”, Wikimedia Germany (via the Freieswissen Fellowship) and the Mozilla Foundation (via the Mozilla Fellowship), this project is expected to be completed (at least a first map) by June 2019.

  2. Engage people and communities who are building/using hardware to start building following the map. This is an ongoing effort. More information can be found at the project github page


Build free and open source science tools: Call for participation

It is with great enthusiasm that we call makers, DIYers, researchers and educators to build science and education tools people need!

This is the second step on our mapping project, where we asked researchers and educators worldwide what kind of tools they needed in their labs. The results of the survey are in, and now we want to engage communities to build the needed tools.

For this step, we will be executing a distributed building event. 

More details can be found here, but in short, people interested should apply in groups of at least three people and be able to dedicate some time per week to build and document their prototypes, over a period of 3 months. 

We will cover costs for components up to 800 dollars and help groups with documentation, knowledge generation and support with development by having weekly check ins and bringing in external expertise when necessary. 

By the end of the 3 month period, groups will come together online to share their experiences and report where they want to take their projects.

Apply by following instructions in this form.



Preliminary survey results are in! Here are the most needed tools (16/04/2019):

optical microscope
electrophysiology system
fluorescence microscope
confocal microscope
2-photon microscope
behavioural setup
real time thermocycler
mass spectrometer
liquid handling robot
gas chromatography system
plate reader
electron microscope

Luckily, there are already several online projects documenting open versions of these tools. Now it is on to phase 2 of this project to contribute with the existing projects and bring them forward!

If you are interested in participating, make sure to check the repository containing information about our building event.


Find more on their website >>>

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The Synthetic Biology Strategic Research Initiative provides a hub for anyone interested in Synthetic Biology at the University of Cambridge, as well as commercial partners and external collaborators.