[open-science] Advice for starting an open community lab/biomakespace?

Jenny Molloy jcmcoppice12 at gmail.com
Wed Dec 2 08:31:30 UTC 2015

Hi All

Thanks so much for all the links and references! I have a lot of reading to
do  :)
Comments to your suggestions in-line

On Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 11:21 AM, Marc Dusseiller <marc at dusseiller.ch>
> wrote:
someone asked a nice question on the DIYbio list recently, asking people
>> about their biggest mistakes in setting up their community labs:
>> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/diybio/CXCmHGrk5TI
>> it's usually easier to tell "what didnt work" cos of the diversity of
>> approaches.
Absolutely, I was going to say this in my reply to Laura and I completely
agree so thanks for the link.

from my experience the main pitfall is to set-up a space with loads of
>> infrastructure and then wait for a "community" to come and do "great"
>> projects. i have seen soooo much cash and energy wasted with that approach
>> (especially in the fabber world). better to start bringing the existing
>> communities together, create an inspiring group of people eager to do
>> something bottom-up. the top down "here is your space" never worked.
I'm a bit concerned we're too early, but an opportunity came up. However,
we've been running successful pub meets for over 18 months, talking about a
space and running Science Makers events looking at and building open lab
hardware for over 6 months. We've got 20-40 hardcore community members and
320 on the meetup group and we've got about eight open biohardware projects
running already through some seed funding, plus other projects starting
that really need the wetlab space, like trying to 3D-print cellulose
(currently at the 'meet up in a pub' stage). We have an enthusiastic
grouping who are eager to do things bottom up but to put it in context with
Puneet's CUBE example, we are (almost) all associated in some way with
research, education and technology in a professional context. There is an
enthusiastic and self-organised grouping of undergraduates who are also

We're under no illusions about our current community make-up and realise
although we'd be theoretically 'open to all', realistically we'd need to
work very hard to be more broadly inclusive. I think this is not unusual in
the makerspace/biohacker sphere. We'd like to make our community more
diverse across interests and demographics, but we're balancing that with
catering for existing members, managing responsibilities associated with
inhabiting a university space and having time to do what we can well and
not exhausting everyone involved (thanks Sheila for raising the issue of
volunteer burn-out!). It will be an adventure!

On Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 5:19 PM, William Waites <ww at eris.okfn.org> wrote:
>     > Part of that “doing things the right way” is to develop a
>     > code-of-ethics, best-practices, conflict resolution, etc.
> That sounds like an OKFNish thing to do. I'd particularly be
> interested in working on that because the science seems really muddy
> at this point, at least in the sub-field that I'm exposed to and
> strongly driven by Intellectual Theft [1]....[1] in the sense of "property
> is theft"

You're right Will and our community is particularly interested in promoting
openness and IP-free tools and technologies for synthetic biology. That's
one of my days jobs now :) However, we don't want to stop people working on
things in the space that they might want to protect so I don't think we'd
impose IP policies one way or the other (this is similar to the Cambridge
makespace approach which many of our community are familiar with
http://makespace.org/faq/). In terms of broader ethics, we will have a code
of conduct and a biosafety code of practice or similar and I'll check out
the information from other spaces as we put these together.

Thanks again for all the really useful advice and resources - I will keep
you updated on progress!

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