What is it about?

Building and sharing one’s own research equipment has become easier because of the spread of tools such as 3D printing. Researchers are increasingly publishing equipment designs openly with the hope that their research can be replicated globally. However, there is little evidence for the effectiveness of different design approaches. This study provides evidence that open technologies indeed help access tools in low-resource environments and dissects the best design approaches for equipment to achieve this accessibility goal.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

If open hardware follows in the footsteps of open software, it will radically change how research equipment is developed, produced, priced, and accessed – likely towards a more democratic, distributed, and appropriately priced model. However, as this emerging trend is developing, researchers and funders alike wonder if this ideal can be reached and what design criteria should be considered in developing research instrumentation for global accessibility. This study provides systematic evidence that open tools increase accessibility to research instrumentation and therefore justifies an increased focus on their development. This study also advances the discussion on design criteria by classifying different instrumentation design approaches and putting them into the context of researchers in low-resource environments. Classifying designs by accessibility clarifies that not all approaches that are currently popular are likely to lead to global accessibility. Criteria for improving the technological impact of open designs are proposed.


Writing helps me think by making my thoughts more concrete. It was thrilling to condense my research groups’ technology development approach into this article as it challenged me to put open source ideologies to the test that I previously just stated as a conviction. The hypothetical promise of open-source instrumentation design is clear to me, but it is reassuring to find clear trends in the literature. Measuring such trends is difficult, and I hope to see much more analysis and discussion on this topic. It was even more helpful to discuss technology design criteria. It clarified my own thoughts substantially and made me realize how much implicit know-how I have gathered on this topic through my work in different global contexts–Europe, the USA, and my latest move to Latin America–as well as countless hours of developer discussions within the global open science hardware community (GOSH). This is my perspective, but it has been informed by many other smart and driven researchers worldwide.

Tobias Wenzel
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Open hardware: From DIY trend to global transformation in access to laboratory equipment, PLoS Biology, January 2023, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001931.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page