Focus and Scope
The Journal of Open Hardware (JOH) is an academic forum for open hardware research and development. Its primary goal is to bridge experimental practices of design, fabrication, and dissemination of hardware with professional, academic, and non-academic communities. It serves as a venue for hardware designers to deposit and disseminate their work and for researchers to publish original empirical research on sociocultural, legal, technical, and economic aspects of open hardware projects. In addition to full-length articles and hardware metapapers, we also invite submissions of review articles of open hardware events and opinion pieces on topics of interest to the Free and Open Source community.
JOH is organized around the same principles guiding Free and Open Source development and Open Access publishing. We prioritize the exchange of knowledge by creating the conditions for the study, modification, redistribution and use of hardware designs for any purpose. To foster our mission, we ensure our publications include Open research data, Free and Open Source software, and fully documented hardware which are accessible, searchable, interoperable, and reusable
The Journal of Open Hardware accepts submissions which cover technical, legal, scientific, economic, and sociocultural aspects of hardware design, fabrication, and distribution. We invite submissions which cover experimental dimensions of hardware design, fabrication, and dissemination from various academic and non-academic fields, such as (but not limited to) human/machine interaction and interface design, engineering, biotechnology, computer science, humanities and social sciences, among others.
. Our topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following:
- Levels of Openness: How “open” hardware components currently are and could be, including the discussion of common strategies and existent roadblocks for increasing openness in hardware projects;
- Ownership Issues: Prior art disputes, trademark restrictions and misuse, alternatives to patenting of new methods, machines, and/or composition of matter; university and research laboratory claims of intellectual property;
- Knowledge Sharing: Training and skillshare, mentorship and knowledge redistribution in important areas of expertise for hardware design, fabrication, and widespread adoption;
- Open Science Hardware Engineering: Engineering best practices, design and fabrication methodologies, quality assessment and minimum requirements for replicability in the sciences and engineering disciplines;
- Sociotechnical Dynamics of Open Hardware Projects: Free and Open Source communities and their intersections with non-profit and for profit enterprises for Open Hardware, such as businesses, educational and public institutions, non-profit organizations and grassroots movements; intersections of Open hardware with other areas of knowledge production in and outside academia, such as Free Software, Open Data, Open Access, and Open Science.
- Economic and Political Dimensions of Open Hardware Development: community organization and coordination of collaborative work, intersections between gift and market economies; physical and electronic commons resource management, national and regional differences in hardware production and distribution; application of Open Hardware to address broader social and environmental issues.
- Open Hardware Reviews: reviews of conferences, workshops, and other events of interest; reviews of books and other relevant publications for Open Hardware designers, manufacturers, and users.
- Educational Hardware: At the Journal of Open Hardware, we sustain that open educational resources are particularly suitable for educational purposes: without proper documentation and sources, it is much harder explore, and therefore to teach and learn about technical objects in detail. Our 'Educational Section' is dedicated to the publication of 'Open Hardware' projects with clear pedagogical orientations: either for self-directed education (by providing through explanation of tools, techniques, and processes) or classroom use. 'Educational Hardware' papers and meta-papers will describe, therefore, how a particular open hardware device can be examined, used, and re-purposed in educational settings.
In addition to full-length papers and reviews on Open Hardware research, JOH also features peer-reviewed “Hardware Metapapers” describing research-related hardware with high reuse potential. We are working with repositories (e.g. DocuBricks, Github, Open Science Framework, Perma.cc) to ensure that associated documentation, online references, and files are professionally archived, preserved, and openly available. Equally important, the hardware descriptions and the papers will be citable, the reuse will be tracked, and (depending on submission) readers will be able to access post-publication future versions of the project.
Assessing suitability of projects for submission
To be accepted, submitted papers need to contain an element of novelty, here defined as experimental and collaborative potential. We encourage submissions which enable future Open Source contributions. The most obvious element of “novelty” is that promising experimental or collaborative practices are presented or enabled to solve scientific and societal problems. Examples include:
- Novel measurement instruments
- Hardware that enables new experimental methods
- Improved accessibility or usability of novel tools e.g. by embedding in open hardware
- Effective application of open hardware tools to solve emergent societal and environmental issues
- Novel protocols making use of hardware/wetware
- Novel development of materials and sensors in open hardware projects (such as “smart textiles”, body-machine interfaces, environmental sensors, etc.).
Consider the following examples (warning - not all examples here are open hardware):
New measurement instrument
A new scientific instrument is presented which enables the production of novel scientific data. This may or may not be published in reference to a separate paper that focuses on the novel data.
DropBot: An open-source digital microfluidic control system with precise control of electrostatic driving force and instantaneous drop velocity measurement
A new microfluidic chip (+periphery description), e.g.: Hands-Off Preparation of Monodisperse Emulsion Droplets Using a Poly(dimethylsiloxane) Microfluidic Chip for Droplet Digital PCR or A microfluidic device for longitudinal studies of C. elegans neurodegenerative disease models
Hardware to enable new methods
These projects describe a piece of hardware that participates in experiments as a tool or otherwise enables the use of new scientific methods.
Hardware to facilitate public participation in science
A new hardware project is introduced to facilitate the task of collecting scientific data, educating the volunteers about scientific protocols and procedures.
Hardware development for radiation monitoring: Safecast bGeigie Open hardware-based Geiger Counter.
Embedding new tools
A new scientific tool (e.g. a sensor) is presented, embedded in an open hardware framework that enables others to use the new tool. The tool itself may or may not be detailed in another publication.
openQCM (Quartz Crystal Microbalance)
New protocol to obtain samples
Instead of a piece of equipment, such a project describes a fabrication or preparation protocol to handle laboratory material and create innovative samples. This follows the same pattern as the other projects, because the handling of instruments and parts are described and characterised.
Submissions may contain a valuable contribution to experimental science, but may not fully meet the JOH criteria for openness, collaborative potential, and novelty. They may contain novel and derivative usages and approaches to fabrication and dissemination of hardware projects, which qualify under the general criteria for sociocultural, economic, and legal aspects of Open hardware development. The following would not automatically exclude an article from publication:
1. Inclusion of closed-source components that may be proprietary and/or prohibitively expensive, when open alternatives are not available and so long as these limitations and exceptions are noted and the hardware build is fully documented. Example 10: SPIM-fluid: open source light-sheet based platform for high-throughput imaging
2. Republication of hardware providing there is sufficient novelty from addition of new insights or improvements. For instance, different use-cases, improved testing and calibration data, modernisation or refactoring.
Ineligible projects have other options for dissemination, such as adding a link to their documentation in the PLOS collection.
Quality, openness and accessibility testing
Submissions have to comply with the OSHWA definition for open source hardware to be considered for publication. This means that the source files must be made available as defined below. The files must be under a license that permits others to study, modify, distribute, make, and sell your hardware. You may require anyone building on your work to release their designs under the same conditions to increase a common pool of contributed hardware design files (referred more generally as “copyleft” licensing). Copyleft licenses include hardware-specific ones from CERN and TAPR, as well as the popular CC-BY-SA and GPL licenses in their different versions. Permissive licenses include the FreeBSD license, the MIT license, and CC-BY. You should apply one of these licenses, or another one to meet the OSHWA definition (which is not a license) to your project documentation. More information on licensing is available from OSHWA.
As part of any submission (either of a regular paper or a hardware metapaper), you are required to provide an extensive description and documentation of the hardware involved in a suitable repository. While the reviewers of your submission mainly assess the accuracy and quality of the metadata rather than the documentation, there will be a minimum level of quality check on the referred-to documentation. This ensures that publication requirements are met.
Project documentation must include:
- The source (e.g. schematics, modifiable CAD files, board designs, etc)
- Any useful intermediate files (e.g. STL files, print-ready PCB files)
- An indication of the intended audience, and resources required to build it
- Description of the project’s functionality
- Explanation, where appropriate, to help the reader understand why design decisions were taken
- Complete assembly instructions, ideally with photographs, diagrams, etc.
- Calibration and testing instructions
- List of parts, ideally with supplier details
- Sufficient information to recreate any custom parts required
This list forms part of the acceptance criteria for the journal, however there are many more things that can be done to improve the openness, quality and accessibility of your project. The OSHWA Best Practice and the GOSH quality sharing document provide excellent guidelines.
The journal is published online as a continuous volume and issue throughout the year. Articles are made available as soon as they are ready to ensure that there are no unnecessary delays in getting content publically available.
Special collections of articles are welcomed and will be published as part of the normal issue, but also within a separate collection page.
Open Access Policy
This journal provides immediate open access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. There is no embargo on the journal’s publications. Submission and acceptance dates, along with publication dates, are made available on the PDF format for each paper.
Authors of articles published remain the copyright holders and grant third parties the right to use, reproduce, and share the article according to the Creative Commons license agreement.
Authors are encouraged to publish their data in recommended repositories. For a list of generic and subject specific repositories that meet our peer review criteria, see here.
The journal’s publisher, Ubiquity Press, focuses on making content discoverable and accessible through indexing services. Content is also archived around the world to ensure long-term availability.
Ubiquity Press journals are indexed by the following services:
If the journal is not indexed by your preferred service, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively by making an indexing request directly with the service.
Annotation and post-publication comment
The journal platform permits readers to leave comments on the publication page, via the Disqus service. Readers will need a Disqus account to leave comments. Comments may be moderated by the journal, however, if they are non-offensive and relevant to the publication subject, comments will remain online without edit.
The journal platform also includes in-browser annotation and text highlighting options on full text formats via hypothes.is. Readers will require a hypothes.is account to create annotations, and will have the option to make these publicly available, available to a group, or private.
A list of repositories that meet our peer-review requirements and are recommended for the archiving of Journal of Open Hardware (JOH) hardware files is maintained below. Please contact us if you would like to recommend that we add a particular repository to our list.
The files of the hardware described in your metapaper or full length article (if it is a project of our authorship) must be placed in a publicly accessible repository. There are two main types of repository which have slightly different purposes:
- A versioned repository holds many versions of the files as they are being developed
- A preservation or institutional repository will preserve a set of files deposited for the long term
We require that the version of files described in your publication is available in at least one repository that satisfies the criteria below. Ideally the files will be available through both types of repository. A good versioned repository for hardware files should:
- Allow the deposit of files under a suitable open licence
- Provide a unique, persistent identifier which references a particular version of the source code or files (example: you might want to refer to a particular “state” of your repository tree)
- Has a published backup policy and terms of service that do not allow deletion without warning
- Have a sound sustainability model
- Allows you to add your publication DOI to the repository after publication
A good preservation repository for hardware files should:
- Allow the deposit of files under the correct open licence
- Provide a unique, persistent identifier (e.g. a DOI) which references the deposited files
- Have a published preservation strategy that guarantees long term preservation
Focus and suitability: DocuBricks takes hardware documentations from all scientific areas. Documentations can only be submitted in their own XML-based submission format, which is created with their offline editor software and into which design files and software are embedded. It is suitable for projects that do not require specialised curation. This web service has been created by one of our editors, Tobias Wenzel with crucial input from other Open hardware creators and editors from our Journal and the wider community.
Justification: In conjunction with the DocuBricks editor software, the platform allows for open hardware-specific documentation in a standardised format which is comfortable to review. Furthermore, the documentations tend to be high in quality, as the software encourages the user to document a project modularly along its functionality. It is also free of cost and free as in “software freedom”.
Licenses: Currently supported licenses include: CC-BY 3.0, CERN OHL, TAPR OHL, MIT licence and many software specific licenses.
Persistent Identifiers supported: DOI.
Sustainability: DocuBricks is an independent initiative run by academics with support from OpenPlant collaboration at University of Cambridge. It is mainly volunteer-based with the mission to keep the content completely open and free to support the Global Open Science Hardware movement with documentation infrastructure.
Deposit instructions: To deposit a documentation associated with a JOH hardware paper in DocuBricks, please follow these steps:
- Download the editor software from the DocuBricks page (http://docubricks.com/software.jsp). This requires no installation but you need Java running on your machine. Fill in the information for parts in the Bill of Materials (BOM), as well as bricks (abstract modular project components) with their functionality, implementation and instructions. Drag and drop in media files such as images, videos, design files (for associated parts in the BOM or as separate brick) and software (also part of the BOM or separate brick).
- Register at “docubricks.com”.
- Upload your documentation as ZIP folder containing the DocuBricks-XML file and your project files and media. The project files folder is automatically created by the editor the first time you save the project to a new location.
- Check that your deposit also conforms with JOH requirements.
- When the files have been made public on the DocuBricks site, they are assigned a permanent link, but a DOI can also be requested from DocuBricks. Please enter this (DOI prefered) in your JOH paper under Repository Location.
- Once your JOH paper has passed peer review and been published, please add the reference and DOI to the Descriptionfield in DocuBricks.
Focus and suitability: GitHub provides a more developer-focussed environment (as opposed to a project-focussed one). It is developing a strong following among Free and Open Source developers and members of the scientific computing community.
Cost: Free accounts can have as many public repos as you'd like, with unlimited collaboration (details).
Licenses: User-defined with automatic inclusion of common Open Source software licenses in different versions (BSD, MIT, GPL, Apache, etc.).
Identifiers used: URL
Sustainability: GitHub is currently the largest code host in the world. Like any other Internet company, its future is uncertain.
Deposit instructions: To deposit firmware or any other piece of code in GitHub, please follow these steps:
- Create a GitHub repository and upload your code.
- Check that your deposit also conforms with JOH requirements.
- When the software and design files have been made public on the GitHub site, it will be assigned a URI. Please enter this URI (a URL) under Code Repository Location of our hardware metapaper. Do not forget to use the hash of
- Once your JOH paper has passed peer review and been published, please add the DOI of the paper to the information about the code in GitHub.
Focus and suitability: Figshare takes software from all subject areas, and is suitable for small to medium sized projects that do not require specialised curation. This is the option for authors who do not have academic affiliation (in contrast to ArXiv).
Cost: Free, including “unlimited” public space and 1 GB of private storage.
Identifiers used: Handle
Sustainability: According to their website: "Figshare is an independent body that receives support fromDigital Science. 'Digital Science's relationship with figshare represents the first of its kind in the company's history: a community- based, open science project that will retain its autonomy whilst receiving support from the division."
Deposit instructions: To deposit hardware documentation on Figshare, please follow these steps:
- Create an account.
- Upload your documentation as either a fileset (most appropriate if you have multiple files for different parts of our hardware project).
- Check that your deposit also conforms with JOH requirements.
- When the files have been made public on the Figshare site, they will be assigned a handle identifier. Please enter this in your JOH paper under Repository Location.
- Once your JOH paper has passed peer review and been published, please add the reference to the description field in figshare, and add the JOH DOI to the links also.
For software, if not included in the hardware repository, we follow the recommendations of our sister journal, the Journal of Open Research Software published by Ubiquity Press.