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The design and production of research hardware i.e., physical artefacts, including mechanical, electrical and software components, have always been an integral part of scientific research. Research hardware can refer to application-oriented development prototypes, as well as to research equipment such as custom-made scientific laboratory build-ups. The open science hardware community has been encouraging the dissemination of research hardware design information under free and open licenses upon scientific publication - in addition to other research outputs like data and software. It has been fostering the idea of "open hardware (OH) from academia". For dissemination of OH, information products such as bills of materials (BOMs), Computer-Aided Design (CAD) files, assembly instructions and other types of digital assets (e.g., 3D printable models for additive manufacturing) are commonly used (Bonvoisin et al., 2017). This may also comprise a software component required for the application of hardware.
However, guidelines for enhancing reusability of research hardware are missing and need to be encouraged (Ezoji, Boujut, & Pinquié, 2021). Good practices from research data include FAIR principles (Wilinson et al., 2016) aiming at increased findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability of data by both humans and machines. Recent advances through the work of the Research Data Alliance (RDA), the FAIR for Research Software group (FAIR4RS WG), the Research Software Alliance (ReSA), and others highlighted the importance of adapting the FAIR principles for research software. We believe that the redefinition of FAIR principles for the domain of research hardware can facilitate and improve OH dissemination practices. Moreover, so-called "closed hardware" or "partially-closed hardware" may also benefit from the application of reoriented FAIR principles.
In this group, we would like to build on previous work (Miljković, Trisovic, & Peer, 2021) and aim at defining FAIR principles for research hardware. We will follow the example of the FAIR4RS WG: Our work will focus on unique characteristics of hardware in relation to existing FAIR principles for data and software. We will emphasise the importance of research hardware documentation, available technology, knowledge and components (or lack thereof), and specific demands for hardware licensing. Also, complex dependencies to other hardware and software components will be discussed.
This interest group aims to collaborate with the OH community (GOSH, OSHWA), scientific research projects involving OH (Open.Make, OPENNEXT), maker communities, and the RDA community to facilitate open discussions on FAIR principles for research hardware. Please join us in this endeavour!