[open-science] Outlining the argument for open commercialization

Song, Stephen stephen.song at gmail.com
Fri Jun 21 00:50:08 UTC 2013

Hi Greg,

I am the founder of an Open Source, Open (mostly) Hardware social
enterprise called Village Telco
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3BgVknO9c8).  Our experience with
Open Hardware, as complete novices to manufacturing, has been the

1/ Open Hardware is a great means to getting to a quick understanding
with a manufacturer.  Open Source licenses are a shortcut to trust and
sharing our schematics up front with the manufacturer quickly
established a relationship where we felt comfortable with each other.
That continues to this day.

2/ Open Source / Open Hardware attracts smart people and good will.
It is a great way to build a community around your product, get input,
fix problems, etc.

3/ Finding investors is hard.  Most investors want to know how they
are going to get their money out if things go pear-shaped.  IP is the
obvious way for them to have something to hold on to.  I have not
found an obvious way round this.

4/ Open Hardware is NOT the same as Open Source.   The analogy does
not map very well.  With Open Source the intent is for people to
replicate and expand on your code.  This is less true with Open
Hardware partly because it is harder to replicate hardware than code
but also because when you are dealing with sophisticated hardware,
someone else's patents tend to get in the way.  In order to work on
our chosen platform (Atheros) we had to sign an NDA which directly
limits what we can share.  Compare the Raspberry Pi with the Arduino.
Arduino really is Open Hardware and there are many variations to prove
it.  There will only ever be one Raspberry Pi because of the
relationship with Broadcom and the proprietary technologies wrapped up
in their chips, not to mention the need for sophisticated
manufacturing facilities.  Yet the Raspberry Pi is a huge success
because it is open to work with (open firmware, exposed GPIOs, etc)
and cheap.  This can end up mattering more than whether you have
published all the gerber files for your device.  Rather than focus on
Open Hardware, I have come to the conclusion that "generativity" is a
more accurate description of what we are after.  In our case
generativity means three things  1) being open "enough" 2) being
simple "enough" and 3) being affordable "enough".

Regards... Steve

On 20 June 2013 16:28, Rafael Pezzi <rafael.pezzi at ufrgs.br> wrote:
> Greg,
> Although I do not think open commercialization is the broadest possible term
> - I agree with Florence -, I follow your reasoning. I believe in free (as in
> freedom) access and use of knowledge developed by universities, particularly
> those under public funding.
> Scientific knowledge and scientific tools are of limited use when
> constrained by business models that restrict it's use and dissemination.
> Philosophically speaking, is is not really science then, in my opinion.
> As you point, we can think of science as a provider of the basic
> infrastructure that enables other business to flourish. Thus the importance
> of open science.
> In this sense, CERN is doing a great job leading the way to free use of
> scientific knowledge and tools - so that you may want to use it in your
> argument.
> 1) First and most evident so far, from the need of dynamic scientific
> communication CERN made something that shaped our society. On
> http://info.cern.ch/ you may find some information about the birth of the
> www:
> "On 30 April 1993 CERN published a statement that made World Wide Web
> technology available on a royalty free basis, allowing the web to flourish".
> No patent, no license fees... everybody benefits - clearly.
> 2) I also think your argument needs some clarification regarding software,
> particularly free software. In order to build a consistent proposal to build
> open knowledge a software infrastructure that can be easily replicated and
> adapted is needed.  Here the importance of open standards cannot be
> overemphasized - data and files.
> 3) Legal Aspects:  Licenses:
>   The free software community flourished thanks to consistent and well
> prepared free software licenses.
>   Thus, we need open hardware licenses for scientific tools. There are two
> open hardware licenses that I know of:
>        3.1) TAPR - Writen in 2007 - http://www.tapr.org/ohl.html
>        3.2) CERN OHL - writen in 2011:
> http://www.ohwr.org/projects/cernohl/wiki (you may find interesting links
> here - case studies)
> 4) Case studies: institutions are licensing some of their intellectual
> property in a royalty free basis: http://www.easyaccessip.org.uk/
>  Including cern:
> http://press.web.cern.ch/press-releases/2012/06/cern-adopts-new-scheme-easy-access-intellectual-property
> By the way, nice project this photosynq.
> Regards,
> Rafael
> Em 20-06-2013 09:29, Greg Austic escreveu:
> Thank you everyone for your comments, help, slides, and suggestions!
> Re Florence - I'm using the words "open commercialization" not to exclude
> other words, but simply because that's the broadest terms I can put it in.
> Commercialization just means making a technology available to a market (end
> users)... so that's a very broad definition and leaves it up to the person
> doing the work how that process is organized, if it's for profit, etc.  So
> to me all the great work done in the collaborative economy completely fits
> into that definition.  However, so do awesome projects like publiclab.org,
> which is a traditional non-profit but is definitely commercialization
> technology and developing platforms to engage citizens in science, or
> Arduino or Raspberry Pi which make money from a product but do not hold
> exclusive rights to the hardware or software (though they do trademark the
> name).
> As in all cases, there are shades of openness, and if we could get
> universities in the US to move an inch in that direction it'd be a huge
> plus.  Perhaps some folks on the list don't know, but in the US most (though
> not all) universities requires professors, researchers, grad students, post
> docs, etc. to sign away their intellectual property rights when they start
> working.  So technology development decisions are basically in the hands of
> the tech transfer department (created through Bay Dohl act -
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayh%E2%80%93Dole_Act), which most often leads
> nowhere, and occasionally leads to a patent which even more rarely leads to
> a product usually drowns in the cost of it's own IP.  The main site for
> accumulating this information is here:
> http://www.autm.net/source/STATT/index.cfm?section=STATT , but of course you
> have to pay to get the data :)
> In addition, Universities (both public and private) in the US are constantly
> fighting for more funds, as public funding is dropping like a stone.  There
> is an increasing reliance on external funding, and an expectation that
> anything which is done within the university MUST bring in additional money
> from outside to be considered at all.  So that puts a lot of pressure on
> open commercialization models because it's somewhat hard to argue they will
> generate more money, though there are many many other benefits (PR and
> branding, decrease costs, more consistent with the core values of the U,
> higher impact, etc. etc.) which others like Pawel have outlined.  It's
> possible to argue that you can get more grant money by opening up a project,
> but again we need lots of examples to be convincing.
> Sorry for the rant... but if we could really reinforce this argument
> effectively with case examples especially those relating to funding and
> especially ones from the literature as Mat said then we'd have a better
> chance.  And it only makes sense to share that argument and examples, as
> this argument will be in large part the same everywhere.
> Building this argument will take some time, and it may not be structured
> effectively in the google doc now (it's a bit of a mess), so feel free to
> jump in and make it better.
> Thanks,
> Greg
> On Tue, Jun 18, 2013 at 2:45 PM, Greg Austic <gbathree at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm a researcher at Michigan State University and am putting together a
>> presentation to promote the concept of open commercialization (bringing
>> technology to market without IP) to admin higher-ups  and I'd like your
>> help.
>> I am looking for more examples to strengthen and simplify the arguments
>> for open commercialization (no intellectual property) versus traditional
>> commercialization.  Ultimately, I would like to see this outline as
>> something that anyone can use to make a similar pitch at other universities.
>> If you'd like to help, please read through the outline in google docs and
>> add arguments, examples, and links wherever you see fit.  I've already noted
>> many places in the outline where I think specific examples would be
>> valuable.
>> Please please share this with other people or lists that you think may be
>> helpful!
>> I think that the time is ripe for making this argument, and Universities
>> may be ready to consider moving back towards a truly open model of
>> information.  Thanks so much for your help!
>> --
>> Greg Austic
>> PS - If you're interested in our specific project it's www.photosynq.org.
> --
> Greg Austic
> 2198 Seminole Dr.
> Okemos, MI 48864
> (919) 545 1083
> www.austiclabs.com
> _______________________________________________
> open-science mailing list
> open-science at lists.okfn.org
> http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-science
> Unsubscribe: http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/open-science
> --
> -------------------------------------
> Prof. Rafael P. Pezzi
> Instituto de Física - UFRGS
> Av. Bento Gonçalves, 9500 - Agronomia
> Caixa Postal 15051, CEP 91501-970
> Porto Alegre, RS, Brasil
> Fone: 51 3308 6444
> -------------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> open-science mailing list
> open-science at lists.okfn.org
> http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-science
> Unsubscribe: http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/options/open-science

Steve Song
+1 902 529 0046

More information about the open-science mailing list