Enabling a democratization of Science. Without hardware, there is no science.
From Hooke’s microscope to the Hubble telescope, instruments are modern science’s platforms for producing knowledge. But limited access to scientific tools impedes the progress and reach of science by restricting the type of people who can participate in research, favouring those who have access to well-resourced laboratories in industrial or academic institutions.
Scientists in developing countries, grassroots community organisations, and citizen scientists can struggle to obtain and maintain the equipment they require to answer their own research questions.
The result of this exclusion from participation is that scientific research becomes ever more elitist as a small number of people decide what the worthwhile and valid projects are. For example, the relative neglect of many tropical diseases and agricultural research on African subsistence crops demonstrates that local concerns in areas with limited scientific resources are often not sufficiently addressed by global science.
The open science hardware movement challenges these norms with the goal of providing different futures for science, using hardware as a launching point. It argues that plans, protocols and material lists for scientific instruments should be shared, accessible and able to be replicated. The fact that a lot of modern scientific equipment is a consumer product that is patented, not supplied with full design information and difficult to repair also blocks creativity and customisation.
Instruments such as OpenCTD and White Rabbit are built on the premise of equality, the idea that everyone should have access to scientific tools. Yet the ability to access such tools is only half the story: it doesn’t address the acute disparities in who is creating science in the first place. And these are enormous. In 2015, The Guardian reported that Africa produces just 1.1% of global scientific knowledge. And recent data from UNESCO indicates that only 28% of researchers globally are women. Women do not represent 50% of scientists in a single country in the world.