Open Hardware Distribution & Documentation Working Group: Values-based standards for manufacturing (part 1)

Journal of Open HW
3 min readAug 5, 2020
Source: Kevin Dooley, CC-BY 2.0

This is the second post of the series of the Open Hardware Distribution and Documentation Working Group (which we’re shortening to “DistDoc”). The group aims to produce a proof of concept for distributed open science hardware (OScH) manufacturing, exploring key aspects like quality, documentation, business models and more using as a starting point a paradigmatic case study. We hope the experience motivates others to discuss and implement new strategies for OScH expansion.

Read the first post “Introduction” here.

By Julieta Arancio

In this second post we present the value-based work of the OScH DistDoc group. The main question we ask ourselves here is how to materialize values that are important for our communities in concrete mechanisms and practices. In this case, manufacturing practices that allow open science hardware to scale in a distributed way without going against basic consensus achieved through community discussion.

Translating values into practice isn’t new to our communities — we have collaboration structures and community guidelines in place. We also embody values in legal instruments, such as open hardware licenses, discoverability -OpenKnowHow- or documentation -DIN spec- that establish what is acceptable and what is not in each case, plus obligations and rights.

In the case of the DistDoc group, the values that are important to us are aligned with those of OSHWA and GOSH communities. During the last meeting we went through these values — mostly those in the GOSH manifesto, and mapped goals that put them into practice:

  • OScH is accessible: Increase access to OScH in the regions close to the distributed manufacturers
  • OScH makes science better: Provide users with a consistent, comparable, high quality product & high quality, context-appropriate support and feedback
  • OScH is impactful tools: Create sustainable business by ensuring a sufficient amount of work for partners
  • OScH empowers people: Provide skilled opportunities for hardware engineers
  • OScH has no black boxes: Provide local technical support and maintenance options
  • OScH allows multiple futures for science: Proving that openness combined with environmental and economic sustainability is feasible

Some of the elements mentioned for future work included using trademarks for enforcing quality, establishing ‘sales zones’ for manufacturing partners with the agreements, aggregating demand and marketing support, establishing for each product a percentage which is returned to contributors, low-cost entry point for manufacturers to join, using a toolchain which can absorb and share open know-how, technical support and feature development agreements.

The group identified that the next step in this process is understanding what the roles, relationships and interactions are between the different actors of the ecosystem we’re envisioning. What shape is this ecosystem going to take? Is it a formal organization, a community, a cooperative? It still remains unknown; clarifying this picture will orientate us, and help us move forward to the next step: adopting a distribution agreement that takes into account value-based goals.



Journal of Open HW

Journal of Open Hardware, an Open Access initiative run by the Global Open Science Hardware community and published by Ubiquity Press.