Open Design: Non-professional User-Designers Creating Products for Citizen Science: A Case Study of Beekeepers

  • Robert Phillips
  • Yelena Ford
  • Karl Sadler
  • Sarah Silve
  • Sharon Baurley
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8015)


Affiliated technologies have opened up opportunities for people, no matter what their design competency or expertise, to engage in the design of the products they use. The notion of “Open Design” or the open sharing of information relating to the design and manufacture of products, services or objects, can be seen as part of a much more encompassing phenomenon whereby users are the innovators and fabricators of their own products. Digital fabrication can enable the remote fabrication of objects tailoring artefacts to specific users or environmental needs. Open fabrication makes manufacturing processes accessible and can respond to niche needs with bespoke production. Citizen science uses non-professionals to conduct research in their own environment or location, extending the impact of research. This process of “amateur scientist” and community monitoring has positive and negative aspects that design can help to address. The workshop conducted as part of this research involved 15 amateur beekeepers and led to a probe study involving 150 participants in the UK, testing a new approach to co-collaboration yielding positive outcomes. The bee population is currently under threat from environmental change, pollution, disease and they are users with a specific interest, bespoke needs and a knowledge base outside of their profession. The decline in bees is a scientific issue as they are seen as a barometer for the health of the environment. Through analysis of observations and insights gained through active design-led workshops, this paper examines the potential barriers, opportunities, benefits and pitfalls of user-designers engaging with citizen science using open design and open fabrication tools. Workshop results included: methods, motivations, designer and manufacturer opportunities and insights into repeatable processes forming the start of a citizen science toolkit. The objective was to ascertain the possible pitfalls of a group of user-designers creating their own citizen science tools enabled by technologists and designers.


User centred design user-designers open design open fabrication citizen science beekeeping 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Phillips
    • 1
  • Yelena Ford
    • 1
  • Karl Sadler
    • 1
  • Sarah Silve
    • 1
  • Sharon Baurley
    • 1
  1. 1.Brunel UniversityUxbridgeUK

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