The Open Source Toolkit features articles and online projects describing hardware and software that can be used in a research and/or science education setting across different fields, from basic to applied research. The Channel Editors aim to showcase how Open Source tools can lead to innovation, democratisation and increased reproducibility.
The Open Source movement revolutionized the way computer systems were developed and how companies made their businesses. Its philosophy requires that all source code should be freely shared, so that as many people as possible can use, change, learn, and improve upon it. This movement made its way into academia and several open source packages are available for scientists.
In recent years, the increasing availability and low cost of electronic components, processors and 3D printers meant that an open model of development has taken root also in the world of hardware, including the development of scientific lab equipment. The implications for research can hardly be overstated: “Open Labware” designs are almost always cheaper than “closed source” ones, allow for distributed development and, critically, customization by the end user, the lab scientist.
Channel Editors select content for the Open Source Toolkit from PLOS journals and also highlight articles from the broader literature. Additional resources such as open source projects, preprints, information about repositories and policy discussions that are deemed of particular interest are also featured. To read more about the scope of the Open Source Toolkit click here.
Meet The Channel Editors
I run the “Vision and Visual Ecology” lab at Sussex Neuroscience, University of Sussex. We are interested in how visual systems sample and process behaviourally meaningful information, and how processing can adapt to changing environment. Working primarily on the visual system of the zebrafish, we use a combination of 2-photon imaging of genetically encoded fluorescent biomarkers, patterned visual stimulation and computational modelling to study how the neural representation of the outside world evolves as it trickles through the network, from retina to the brain and behaviour. We are also keen users of modern consumer oriented manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing of the use of microcontrollers to modify our equipment and to build new and highly specialised equipment from scratch. I am one of the founders of TReND in Africa, a scientist-run NGO aimed at fostering science education and research on the African continent.
I am a researcher at the Ophthalmic Research Lab at the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of Tübingen. The lab’s main interest is unravelling function and organization of retinal microcircuits towards a better understanding of visual processing. Additionally, because I strongly believe that science has to be more open and widespread, I run a website called Open Neuroscience, where I curate open source/access projects related to Neuroscience. It hosts several projects in different sub fields such as data analysis tools, open databases, and hardware, and it is always open for suggestions and projects I might not know about! Like Tom, I am also part of TReND in Africa. We are both active in the Maker-Movement where we aim to promote the use of open source software and hardware approaches in research and education.
In 2015, Tom and I published a community page in PLOS Biology on the use of consumer oriented 3-D printing and microcontrollers for the building of sophisticated yet low-cost laboratory equipment, or “Open Labware”.
We hope that the Open Source Toolkit will be a useful resource and compendium for researchers around the world. If you’d like to see your work featured in the Channel, you can email the PLOS Channels team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and they will forward your suggestion on to us.
You can check out the Open Source Toolkit at channels.plos.org/open-source-toolkit