DIY BIO - Fair Play

Who get paid for your work?
70% in the room say they get some money out of biohacking
Ruediger often faces problems like this. Partially employed with consultancies (e.g. parliament) – freelance and part time job. But the content creation was happening in unpaid spare time. I.e. consulting parliament on problems he was creating in spare time :wink:
But this isn’t sustainable. Institutions and universities were interested in workshops in content, etc. but they didn’t even know how to interact with that in terms of payment / freelance contract, etc. They usually bring in other academics from institutions who are on payroll, so they don’t realize how to work with freelancers.
Institutions are customers. It should be normal to get paid for work. But in his institution / academic context people don’t realize this. It’s a fundamental problem we should discuss. How can we make institutions realize this?
Note: For biologists there is no lobby. There is for medicines, for doctors, for lawyers, etc. and they lobby on behalf of their constituents. How do we build up a lobby for biologists? To achieve influence on politics. E.g. chemists are allowed to do tests for something… biologists aren’t.
But we are talking about open science – it oesnt make sense to lobby for biologists. I wrote “How can art scientists make a living and not starve”. I think how about a lobby of a nonexistent job. What we are doing is a bit between art – science.
Who will do the content if nobody pays for it?
All these festivals, etc. you do it for fun / hobby, but also a job.
To what extent are you willing to compromise? If somebody offers you a job – what would you compromise? Values?

Maybe job is the wrong work. It’s not a 5-9 job.
What we really need to address is the power imbalance between freelancers and institutions.
Freelancers: In the sense of normal jobs, i.e. a flexible worker, like a graphic designer?
In Germany you can’t be a freelancer if you only have one customer (workers’ rights).
The question is how to make a living, either as a freelancer with good conditions or as a permanent employee.
E.g. as a freelancer if you have 4-5 employments a month, then it’s maybe ok. But institutions are hard to convince that our “work” is worth this sort of money.
Same problem with DITOs project. They get funding for academic institutions, hire academics, etc. Take freelance /g grassroots content without paying for it, and get money from EU commission for it. This is a rip off
Biotehna: We are essentially a freelance institution but we do have an institution and can get grants. We use the DITOs money to create workshops and we’re able now to pay people who worked for us before. (but maybe this is an exception rather than a rule). The CRI e.g. was able to employ Lena like that.
Luc: When people ask for funding, they can usually ask for funding for external costs. But for DITOs they didn’t. So this has to be lobbied for. Currently when people apply for a grant, they can ask for exernal costs, but they don’t because maybe they think it decreases chances of getting grant, or maybe they think they don’t need it.
Sometimes there is also a lack of imagination / experience on how to account for these costs. It’s possible maybe but not done.

The real problem is that we are not eligible for funding. We need to be a third party / beneficiary.

Why don’t you create a legal construct like an association? We (Chris) apply for sponsorship via that so we can hire people via that.
There are two questions:
There are associations that run spaces that need to be sustainable
And there are people who are freelancers, etc. who want to make a living.
There is a lot of grants and hype around this topic, but the money doesn’t go to the actual practitioners. We should try to suggest how spaces and people can benefit. This is very critical, because otherwise there will be nobody after us who will do this, and we will all eventually get jobs.
Can we institutionalize our competencies / skills and have accreditations. To show to somebody that you have skills that are recognition. “Chartered Biohackers”, e.g.
Maybe that idea of a charter / lobby / union can be extended to have a value / culture statement. Often there seems to be a lack of awareness from institutions that just expect things to be free, and also for us, where we seem not to think that we can say no and ask for money.
So “how to” guides, this is how you calculate what you should earn, etc. and templates of how to ask for that and justify that, you know how to do that.
This might work for established practitioners, but for people who are starting, or in countries that don’t have so much infrastructure, what can you do. It’s not like a “union” can kick you out if you’re not following this or are undercutting wages.
Should we have numbers? / Recommended wages?
How is it for artists / musicians? There are normal rates for e.g. talk / an exhibition / etc
But when you’re dealing with an art gallery, the conversation is not like with a business. They say “we love this, we’d like to have it” – “yeah, I’d like to come” – “ ah, but we have no money… oh no, we can’t pay for transport”… The correct way is not to say “I’d like to come, here is my price” – it doesn’t often work.
Our task will be to show that we are bringing content.
Standard example projects with concert costs.
Making budget transparent for Academies and bookers. Showing how it is spend.
Even big organization are not paying. Rudiger was invited for a workshop in future BIOTOPIA Museum in Munich. Staff refused to pay his contribution.
Need to explain. What is citizen science? Is it an academic approach or outside academic approach to science. To fight the narrative that it is not professional. Citizen science
Do we need a new name for citizen Science? Install a name as a brand, like hackers.
What do we create? Sellable values:
Workshops, Interaction, art, making/hacking, production of items, talks, exhibitions, consulting,

  1. Building confidence
    Terminology: consultant

  2. Code of conduct
    Install clear rules how to proceed with freelancers,

  3. Lobbying for mechanism of funding
    Building code of treatment within the organizations, mention it, fight for it
    Make Budget planning transparent

  4. Building up trust
    What could be at the website?
    Rating workshops, credit system, building trust

  5. Manifesto

  6. Recommended rates, example calculations

  7. Profile pages

  8. Best practice Example like workshops, shows

  9. Option to share best practice within the group
    In communication referring to the manifesto.

Solution: put up a quick website

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Some things that pop into my mind when reading this:

  • Are we at the point yet where the information/experiences we have, can be drafted into a code of sorts?

  • I think sales is an important aspect to focus on. We are not great at it ourselves, but it can make such a big difference. This is however dependent on the local situation and the specific offering. Sharing best ‘hack your sales’ practices could be helpful for this.

  • Experimenting with organisational structures would be vital to ensure that your effort that is primarily aimed to sustain yourself & your space, doesn’t turn into just a money printing machine.

  • Ideally try to use grants as investments, not as revenue to rely on.

Maybe we could speak together tomorrow afternoon about the developments of
this ideas, you remember me to try to confer a new purpose to my domain, it’s in alpha stage… Mmm…

Notes from Rosen (@haho16) here:

…let’s combine the threads

Probably also interesting for this thread… and for the forum discussion later this afternoon (STS/anthropology/sociology v.s. DIY practitioners)
There is a framework called “Community owned and managed research” (COMR) that I heard about through PublicLab. I don’t know much about it (maybe someone here does?). It comes from the environmental justice world and was developed by community organisations. It is a set of requirements for community-based participatory research (CBPR) collaborations:

  • requires funding equity (50/50 share)
  • management parity of the grant
  • co-author/co-credit on everything
  • science that is done for compliance (not a peer reviewed paper) and data used for attainment and compliance.

It’s hard to google (and I can’t access scihub here!!! wtf - I think this is the original paper: The West End Revitalization Association’s Community-Owned and -Managed Research Model: Development, Implementation, and Action — Maryland Population Research Center), but I found this paper on some research that used the COMR framework:
Use of community-owned and -managed research to assess the vulnerability of water and sewer services in marginalized and underserved environmental justice communities - PubMed

A novel community-driven research approach that builds on the principles of CBPR stresses community ownership and management at each stage of the research process, promoting community-based organisations (CBOs) with demonstrated organizational capacity to the role of principal investigator and project manager (Heaney et al., 2007; Wilson, Bumpass et al., 2008). Principles of community-owned and –managed research (COMR), described previously (Heaney et al., 2007; Wilson, Bumpass et al., 2008), go beyond traditional CBPR and other forms of university-managed research with communities by emphasizing the credibility and capacity of CBOs to maintain ownership and community trust. COMR was developed by the West End Revitalization Association (WERA) through its organizing efforts to preserve three low-income African-American communities in Mebane, North Carolina, a semiurban town of 7,284 people (78% white, 18% black per the 2000 U.S. Census). WERA represents the communities of West End, White Level, and Buckhorn/Perry Hill, comprised of approximately 500 households, 10 churches, and one Masonic Lodge.
WERA worked with residents to stop plans to build a 27-mile interstate highway corridor from I-85/40 in Mebane to Danville, Virginia, whose path would have leveled historic homes and churches in the West End and White Level communities (U.S. Census Bureau [USCB], 2011). The three WERA communities are 85% to 95% African-American, and many residents, descendants of slaves, inherited land passed down across multiple generations (Wilson, Cooper et al., 2008).
WERA formed a COMR partnership with researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health (UNC) to perform a cross-sectional household drinking water and sewer service survey and measure fecal pollution levels in drinking water and surface water supplies in the communities, which is reported in this article.


Here we want to collect and summarize a simple guideline and recommendations on honorariums for freelance diybio work. The unconference seminar on FAIR PLAY in the torture room at biofabbing conference lead to the following conclusion:


We are doing professional and complex work, usually we have years of education and work experience behind us. A core feature of our work is that it centers around biology and is transdisciplinary by nature. Common terms to describe it are Bioart, Biohacking, DIYbio, Biodesign and similar.
Citizen Science is dead: As Citizen Science is mostly framed as uneducated assistance work, we dont feel adressed by this label.
Our work is commonly running workshops, giving talks and lectures both to general or specialist audiences, curating or creating work for exhibitions, consultancy, basic and applied research and generally the making, hacking or production of items. Some of us are organised in small companies, associations or work as individual freelancers.
We often work with institutions, museums, galleries, media, the public sector (e.g. municipalities) and companies.
Due to its innovative nature, of course the type of activities is not restricted to those named here.

In our work, we follow the principlies as they are described in the DIYbio code of conduct, but depending on the specific task, can vary and go even further, always with the goal to deviler high quality and creative work.

A recommended EU average rate for a full day of work as a freelancer is 70€/hour or 560€ / day.
Please be aware that from this income, taxes, healthcare, research and development, customer acquisition and office costs have to be covered.

This rate varies among EU countries and needs to be corrected with a factor (regional value / 21,78) which can be calculated here:
and here

Example calculations:
A museum wants to hire a biohacker for a consultancy job to help curate their new biodesign exhibition. With experience, consultancy does not need much preparation, thus only the time in the museum taking part in their strategy planning workshops requires payment. A full workday of 8h would this be calculated this way:
This task could be charged for in in southern Germany with 8h* 70€/h * 28 / 21,78 = 720€ and in Slovenia the calculation would look like: 8h* 70€/h * 17 / 21,78 = 437€.
For travelling to and from the museum, half a day salary can be charged and the travelling costs themselves should be added to the bill. A workshop in the opening of the same exhibition could be charged differently, e.g. with 2 days preparation, 1 day workshop execution, 1 day of travel back and forth and 1 day of post processing of the results. If the museum would be in Prague, 5 days of work would make 8h* 70€/h * 12 / 21,78 = 1543€, the same job in Copenhagen should earn you 3600€.

this is a great thread - sorry i missed the real discussion! your estimates are on point. For my estrogen workshops especially hired by academia or gallery, I request

  1. roundtrip travel paid
  2. accommodation covered
  3. an artist fee

The artist fee part is always where they try to skimp on you, and I find it better to declare your price first (My regular fee is $500 per workshop) rather than hearing what they offer. They always say they have no money, but they do… In the beginning I used to do workshops for free for several reasons: i’m young, i’m inexperienced, I need to build confidence, I’m just happy to be here, etc… but now, NO, I realize this is how institutions take advantage of young, talented, enthusiastic people and we cannot contribute to this culture ! ALL YOUNG TALENTED PEOPLE PLEASE DO NOT DO THINGS FOR FREE. Biology is super trendy now and all these institutions are salivating to have your work, seriously.

In the Netherlands the most important arts funding agency has published an online calculator for determining artist fees and asked the leading art institutes to commit to it. Something like that for our type of activities would perhaps also work.
What also helps a lot, is to have someone else negotiate the fee than yourself. Just appoint an agent, could be a professional, could also be a friend, your brother, whatever, as long it’s not you and it is someone you really trust. Because they are not susceptible to arguments like “it’s nice to be there”.
Next there are many other terms and conditions that I’ve learned the hard way to take into account. What to do when your plane is cancelled, and you miss your workshop slot. What to do when your luggage with workshop material doesn’t arrive, etc, etc. Having those things set before you engage in an assignment is something

For artists fees W.A.G.E ( has done a lot of work to define and standardize the services and payment. Non-profits can be ‘W.A.G.E certified’ for example. This is fairly comprehensive and makes it easy to point to it to say acknowledging that artists should be compensated for doing work, as a principle. I think diybio consultation would be pretty parallel and presents the same problems in terms of standardization and definition of what constitutes ‘work’ and what is valueable and should be paid for.

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Generally transparency in how the organization funds are being spent might lead to more accountability. In the US all the non-profits have to publicly report their spending which you can check out ( as well as the political affiliation of institutions or individuals you’re working with ( Having this on the table is a good starting point for any conversations around compensation for the people at the bottom of the production chain. (I learned this partly from BFAMFAPHD which is an interesting reference - an artist collective that has also done work around equity in artist compensation )

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Hey Pieter, thanks for engaging in this discussion. Will the Waag society pay those rates for workshops and activities run by the community people in the future? So far i heard you did not want to employ freelancers nor pay for contributions from the community…

Another issue we need to adress is the excessive branding which is happening recently by institutions, as they discovered that bio stuff became sexy. So far it was individuals and small ngos which build the content, but recently, especially with the appearence of the DITOS consortium, a lot of money flows to those institutions. The content generated by the small players is an easy prey for professionalised organisations with their own branding and PR departments and it is too often appropriated and marketed under the institution label without any compensation to the creator.
If this trend continues it will destroy the culture of open sharing of knowledge and ideas.
The waag is one of the most aggressive actors in this domain and i find the lack of communal sense and fairness disappointing.

From whom did you hear that? I don’t remember any recent activity in which artists or workshop leaders have worked for free. We have payed all workshop leaders in our funded projects, unless they explicitly volunteer. Even our interns get payed. Whenever we work with artists we also provide funding, just take a look at the recent residency programs: Trust Me I am an Artist, FEAT, Binnenlandateliers, Bio Art & Design Award, STARTS prize, Data Aesthetics exhibition, BioStrike workshops, Critical Making, BrainHack, etc. And when people come up with their own idea and there is no funding, we often provide the space for free. I personally have voluntarily opened up our lab every Tuesday night for years. Even this morning I’ve gave out lab equipment for free. So I don’t know where these stories come from. Either provide me with concrete examples or don’t spread these weird rumours!
It is kinda strange that you call us aggressive in this direction. We have co-founded Creative Commons Netherlands, have pioneered the FabLab network, our recent spin out FairPhone is one of the most exemplary B-corporations has been awarded by the German Umweltpreis, UN award, etc, etc. We are at the forefront of defending the commons, organised Facebook Fairwell parties, are the most active voice in opposing Ubers and AirBNB, support the alternative FairBNB, have started an alternative economic bureau for the Dutch government, our EU projects are honourably mentioned for their leadership and vision in Digital Social Innovation and CAPs, people from all over the world come over to Amsterdam to learn about our models, we are one of the leaders of Maker Education in our country, etc, etc Have you actually read our website?

i heard the statement that you prefer to hire companies instead of individuals due to lack of reliability from you personally. it may be true that you lead and founded many things, given. i just feel that everytime i interact with the waag, i lose something. I gave a non paid talk at your academy program on digital microfluidics, and after having spent more than 40000euro on the development myself, sharing results openly, i now see digital microfluidics in your wetlab, marketed as if its all made in amsterdam by your people. on top, you as the waag support a startup which has CLOSED the very development we started as an open collaboration.
The latest case in where i feel disregarded is your policy paper. You said you have finished a draft already, but has anyone seen it yet? Why do you come by the conference to discuss anything , if you are not ready to take the voices from the community into account? Months ago, when Lucas proposed to do the paper, it was in discussion to do it together. I have many years of consultancy experience in politics and thought this could be a collaborative process in which i can add something. I then recommended this personally to you, but did not feel that this was a welcomed idea. Now, looking at your instagram, it looks like as if the waag actually consulted us, which i dont feel it really is the case.
What i also regularly notice and also pointed out to you personally before it the lack of references in your work. Often you feature other people work without even naming them. I think thats not fair, at least mentioning the source of your material should be a standard.

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ok to put things in perspective a bit: I am disappointed because i think you as the waag could help the community and the creatives more, which are often suffering from being ripped off or simply overlooked and un/underpaid. The waag started off early with the diybio topic and was the first institution to actively engage. Often this lead to good results, but what i find is that you build a money vending machine for EU grants - which is probably smart and necessary to fund such a large organisation as the waag. but it appears as if you lost the community out of sight (and hereby i mean also people which dont show up in amsterdam regularly, but still contribute to the common content sources developed by the creatives in the scene which you also very often tap into).
As the waag has been involved from early on and you know the scene well, i have somewhat higher expectation on the waag on how to give back than on others,which dont have this background knowledge.

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Numbers say more than words… Whoever puts less than 1% of direct costs for others into a budget, obviously has a clear strategy.

I’ve seen that comic before. Whom ever came up with that percentage doesn’t know how to read EU budgets. Let’s assume that for now, instead of considering the option that someone is deliberately trying to spread false facts. I am willing to accept this as a stupidity, otherwise it would be really shameful. I also pity the people that got fooled by this.

then show us other numbers…

I am not going to share the accurate numbers. Not because EU projects are secret, but simply because it doesn’t work like that for many good reasons. Some can be found in the grant agreement too:

And show me where the references are lacking in our publications, I am happy to fix it. I totally agree it should be standard practice, but things sometimes get forgotten or neglected for reasons that those kind of mistakes happen.

There have been dozens of open evenings about microfluidics here in our lab. Totally open with plenty of people contributing and having fun. 3 participants started a company based on the things they learned, my suggestion would be to have some patience as to what comes out of that. I admire all the work you and others have put into that field as well.

Most of all I’d like to stress that keeping the good vibes going is the most important thing. Spending all this energy on bashing and dragging things down is such a waste. Let love rule.

DO feed the trolls!! This actually turned into a really interesting and important discussion. Sure, the vibes could be better… so please choose your words wisely.
May I moderate a bit?

@rudiger: what do you think about splitting the topics FairPAY and FairPLAY (giving credit)?

@dusjagr: could you explain the acronyms and numbers in your sheet?
WS: Waag Society
MP: Medialab Prado
KI: Kapelica


  1. which ‘good reasons’ do you have NOT to disclose the EU budget? What about transparency?
  2. You referred to the grant agreement Page 130, ARTICLE 10 which states “The beneficiaries must base their purchases either on the best value for money (…) or on the lowest price.“
    Do you want to say that you feel obliged to beat down the price as much as possible?
  3. You say the Waag always fairly pays artists and freelancers? Maybe you could share some numbers here!? Do you have any guidelines on how much to pay?

We could make a list – everyone adds what they payed or earned and for which kind of activity. Or is this too much transparency? You don’t need to write your name, just the name of your employer… any thoughts on this?

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