Upon the Shoulders of Giants: Open-Source Hardware and Software in Analytical Chemistry

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GOSH 2016 and 2017 alum Ryan Fobel and colleagues have a new paper out in the ACS Journal Analytical Chemistry – GOSH gets a good mention!

Upon the Shoulders of Giants: Open-Source Hardware and Software in Analytical Chemistry

Michael D. M. Dryden, Ryan Fobel, Christian Fobel, and Aaron R. Wheeler
Analytical Chemistry Article ASAP

DOI: 10.1021/acs.analchem.7b00485

WebPDF (as of 10 Apr 2017 the web version is behind a paywall but should be OA very soon)


Isaac Newton famously observed that “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” We propose that this sentiment is a powerful motivation for the “open-source” movement in scientific research, in which creators provide everything needed to replicate a given project online, as well as providing explicit permission for users to use, improve, and share it with others. Here, we write to introduce analytical chemists who are new to the open-source movement to best practices and concepts in this area and to survey the state of open-source research in analytical chemistry. We conclude by considering two examples of open-source projects from our own research group, with the hope that a description of the process, motivations, and results will provide a convincing argument about the benefits that this movement brings to both creators and users.

GOSH Mention:

“While open-source software is widely known, a similar concept for hardware exists, called Open-Source Hardware (OSHW), which is simply an instrument for which the “design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.”(13) OSHW has recently been applied specifically to scientific tools by the Global Open Science Hardware movement (GOSH), with the stated goal to “reduce barriers between diverse creators and users of scientific tools to support the pursuit and growth of knowledge.”(14) The field with the strongest adoption of OSHW and GOSH principles is experimental physics; for example, the Open Hardware Repository operated by the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) lists over one hundred projects from radiation-tolerant electronic modules to cosmic ray detectors, many of which have hundreds or thousands of units deployed in CERN facilities.(15) Scientists working in the life sciences have also created a growing list of open-source tools, covering areas including microscopy, molecular biology, and electrophysiology.(16) Likewise, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) ”3D Print Exchange” includes designs for hardware related to health sciences,(17) and a number of open-source tools from many fields have been curated in a PLOS collection.(18) Conversely, analytical chemistry has not experienced the same penetration of ideas like OSHW and GOSH. Although there are certainly some open-source analytical tools ranging from photometric measurement systems(19) and quartz crystal microbalances(20) to more mundane tools like tube racks,(21) centrifuges,(22) and well plates and micropipettes,(23) publishing open-source hardware does not seem to be front-of-mind for many analytical chemists.”

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