DIY BIO - Fair Play

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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@pieter i don’t think it’s bashing for sake of bashing, i think they are trying to give feedback on how they have interacted with the waag in the past and for something that literally says “do it together” in the name , concerns and disappointments should be addressed rather than 'keep the good vibes going" no?

To disclose, I have done talks and workshops with the waag in the past year, and have had flights and accommodation covered by participating festival but not waag directly, and never an artist fee paid (I didn’t ask for one), anyway money aside… large institutions have tendency to get away with colonial behavior and senseless branding which can be hurtful to communities , not pointing fingers but just something to keep in mind as @rudiger pointed out, you have HUGE influence in eu and abroad.


This is a really great thread.

Earlier I stupidly did quite a few things for free (consultancy, organisation…) because I somehow felt it was for a worthy cause. If you find yourself about to work for free you have to ask yourself whether the people you’re ‘collaborating’ with are also working for free. If they are getting paid, then so should you. It’s ok to do a few pro bono or low-paid things if you really love the project or will get a lot of non-financial benefit out of it. But it’s not ok to accept those conditions on a regular basis as it creates the expectation from those doing the hiring that it’s ok to underpay people - pulls down the level of compensation for everyone. This is even true if you don’t need the money - if you have a well-paid dayjob/other income but take away jobs for free from others in the community who need that kind of work to pay their rent, that’s not ok.
I think if I had read a thread like this a few years ago I wouldn’t have let myself get exploited like I did.

I could still do a lot better in terms of fees (I’m also still a newbie), but here are the kind of amounts I’ve gotten so far:

Festival workshop (my first)
Time - 2hrs + 8hrs preparation
Pay - €100 +materials, +free entry (+1) to a 3-day music festival, +free travel, food+drink tokens

Consultation Workshop
Time - 11hrs
Pay - €480

Demo booth at a conference
Time - 16hrs (shared by 4 people - 4 hrs each) + 4hrs preparation
Pay - €500 plus free entry to a fancy expensive (fairly boring) conference for 4 people

About Waag - I have no personal experience, but I did take a look into the DITOs Science Bus job advertised recently as it sounded pretty cool… but €1000 +accommodation & food seemed like a very small fee for 4 weeks work requiring such specific expertise/experience and with so much responsibility.

I don’t want to point the finger solely at Waag as there are plenty of other (worse) cases… but it would be great if we could start to change this everywhere. With its strong reputation for open, fair and community-based projects as well as a serious player in EC projects Waag could really be a leader here.

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back to the numbers…

all applications for funding by the EU are public and can be downloaded. sometimes a bit difficult to find:
Some Notes about DITOs
Download full proposal:

I was involved in some of the earliest pre-discussions for this application, and thus closely followed the later process. also as a learning experience to deal with such larger H2020 grants. and yes. i did read the whole application through (a few times)…

The numbers are a bit distributed throughout the application.
although h2020 seems not yet to be ready structurally and administratively to include a more broader involvement of non-institutional / non-academic / ngo / business involvement, there is ways to include them. by kinda “rule” minimum 85% of the funding has to be paid to fully employed staff of the applicants (phd students, senior researchers etc…). but that “rule” is flexible, but needs extra explanation when this number goes below.
as a comparison, most cultural institutions have between 30-50% of their own staff cost, the rest goes to production, fees, and other external costs. most small hacker-underground organisations leave this number usually below 20%.

so, i summarized all these numbers, using the original numbers from the ditos application which shows the person-month per workpackages and the re-calculated salaries according to the eu differences in economies. that was the easy part.

then there is also the “Other Direct Costs”, which includes for example “travel of the team to team meetigs”, or “Other Services – (Website design, leaflets, logo etc)”, or “Consumables – Do It Together Bio workshops”. so that means all the money that you pay somewhere else, to a store, to a travel agency, a hotel, a webdesigner etc…

this is also where the applicant can put down some fees for workshop mentors, or spending the money on food and hotels for non-team players. which sadly is rarely done :frowning:

So i kinda tried to group these “other direct costs” into expenses that only the instition spends on themselves and what they spend for “others” and somehow i got a feeling that this “Do It Together” is more of a game amongst the applicants group, instead of “Do It With Others”. But some applicants did reserve more costs for production and fees, like medialab prado.

of course that grouping was done kinda subjectively… please do your own grouping or interpretation.

And i also want to state, that all these numbers are flexible. + / - 10% can be accounted without problems, if the numbers change more substantially, a small application for these changes have to be submitted to the h2020 office.

the main mistake that was done in this original application, was not only that these numbers didnt include enough “cash” for others… but even worse that absolutely no “third parties” could be involved.

which is in my oppinion a complete contradiction to the goals and visions of the call and the application. quote:

DITOs will create and extend a network of scientific and technical innovation hubs, including academic and research institutions, science associations, NGOs, and galleries, from which to draw expertise and capacity as well as infrastructure for our engagement strategy. However, to encourage user-led and DIY innovation we must also draw on the expertise of grassroots and DIY groups and organisations, which have a deeper understanding of local contexts. We will engage these groups in the DITOs network and advisory boards, and will support, promote, and extend their initiatives.

What means “to draw from”?
to bring toward oneself or itself, as by inherent force or influence;

The “Third Party” involvement also states, that the project cannot “draw” from in-kind contributions… eeehhhmmmm… which it massively did already. stuff like inviting grassroots activists to round-table during workdays without payment, or access to venues/hackerspaces of communities without paying rent… or just myself co-organizing biofabbing for a salary below a swiss standard for the workload i had, but i happily agreed upon in the beginning of our discussion with the team.

but then of course, this h2020 DITOs project is usually just one source of funding to execute the program. likewise for BioFabbing we could source other “overhead” money that was available in UniGe, or other partners will pay fees through another grant from the municipality or sponsors… if they have the mindset to do so!

i hope that helps to also write down some policy that future SwafS grant rules are more flexible to get money OUT of the institutions, and that 85% rules gets kicked out.

greetings from happy RandeLab and sunshine…

Thanks Marc for taking on this fundamental task. Catch u soon.

Hi everyone,

I hope youall made it safely home or onto your next destination after Biofabbing. It was a really great thing - thank you again to the organisers for putting so much into the event.

To follow up on this discussion… I think I mentioned in the torture room that some of us are trying to co-ordinate efforts around funding/sustainability, advocacy and related issues as the DIY Science Network. Next week is the Mozilla Global Sprint, 1-2nd June – I’m going to take part as a project lead and use it as an opportunity to raise awareness for the network and hopefully get some support with a few things.

I decided to focus on 3 projects, one of which would be a continuation of this discussion: ‘Fair Pay for DIY Science’. I’m hoping we might be able to make progress on developing these public guidelines to support DIY science practitioners to ask for fair/equitable compensation for their work. If anyone would like to join and contribute that’d be really great.

The other 2 projects are:

  • How to get funding’ - a project to research different funding models for DIY science initiatives
  • Building a DIY Science Network Website! - this would be a github page home for the network and a place where we could host co-developed resources (like the fair pay guidelines above).

If you feel you could help out that’d be really great.
Project coordinated here:
Contribution guidelines:

(In case you don’t already know it, don’t be afraid of github… it’s just a good place to organise collaborative work in the open. I’m mostly only asking for comments. l33t coding skillz not required :wink:).



should we comment on this and give constructive feedback, @pieter?

thx for the flowers!

“large institutions have tendency to get away with colonial behavior and senseless branding which can be hurtful to communities , not pointing fingers but just something to keep in mind as rudiger pointed out, you have HUGE influence in eu and abroad.”

" @pieter and @rvdierendonck doing a #DIY #hormone workshop. "

Seriously… this is really not a good look. Especially after this whole thread.

Reopening this as we are preparing to be more active with outreach in our space. It’s been an interesting discussion and I’d like share a few thoughts and distill a few rules of thumb for the organizer’s point of view. Disclaimer: I’m active as both a maker and an organizer, with a focus on the latter lately as our situation requires it.

In my experience, the understanding must go in every direction. Developing an open source centrifuge is valuable, enabling schools/non-DIYscientists to widely use it equally adds value. They’re both hard and expensive in their own way.

Frustration can come from the development value not resulting in monetary return, as this is currently a bug in the open way we work. This opposed to the money that is often involved in spreading or implementing it, which doesn’t reach the developers. Organizers thus often externalise development costs. Not okay.

Possible solution: internalise the development costs. Pay people to develop open source content. How to do that? Not sure, some thoughts below.

Rules of thumb I gather so far:

  • Pay people fairly for hosting workshops
  • Pay makers/developers/artists fairly for when you use/recreate objects/installations/designs that they made
  • Attribution, attribution, attribution. And it’s better to do it too often than not enough.
  • Keep an open conversation, be transparant in communication, finances, …
  • Pay people for work, not for surrogate intellectual property

What does ‘fair’ mean? Pointless question I think, establish it case by case in conversation with those concerned.

I personally think the last bullet point is conducive of a more resilient way of working. An example: as an organizer, say that I want to set up a way of bringing an open source centrifuge to a general audience (selling it, workshops, whatever). I would rather pay the developer for hard work (eg. build us a flat pack version of the centrifuge or develop a printable pipette tip) than to pay a fee for the use of his past work (the development of the centrifuge). The latter, seems to me, is a surrogate for IP and a symptom of an underlying factor: the developer was not paid for his work to begin with.

Ultimately over time, everyone involved is paid for their hours of work. Afterall, the same is true at the organizer’s side: reaching people, logistics etc. are hours of hard work.

I’d like to experiment with this over the coming months.

Curious to read thoughts!

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outside of this stream of discussion there has been again many other channels where it has been continously reflected. i’d like to invite a few people to come back to this virtual space and write up some summaries, reflections and steps forward.

from our old documents, as kinda position paper, how we wanna be treated are 4 main bullet points:

  1. “on same eye level” with the institutions we work with.
  2. Show Interest and act respectfully towards each other
  3. “Choose people in institutions we trust to work with”
  4. Stop collaboration and speak up when treated unfairly

and more elaborate description here

there is also an ongoing discussion in our other networks, such as the Global Open Science Hardware Forum

and we have just recently kicked-off a research project which studies this assymetries of power and understanding from a “future of work” economic perspective also around collaboration with the life science industries aka big pharma:
@gaudi, @sabgaby

i hope this stream is continouing to grow and we can develop more clear strategies, position papers, amplify our voices and find some (but not too many) common visions.


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Thanks Marc!

Yes to all 4 points, but I think we’d speed the change if we were also a little more proactive.
I think we’d be more effective in arguing that we’re being treated unfairly if we have a simple way of communicating it. I don’t think the institutional folks necessarily understand that they’re exploiting people, or at least don’t think about these issues at the point where they are planning their budgets and writing their grant applications. So, yes, we should break off exploitative ‘collaborations’ but it would also be constructive if we helped them to understand what a fair collaboration should look like (and cost) in the first place. I think the best way to do that would be to make a shared resource that we can all point to.
I’d argue that this could be a small website that both…

  1. gathers and clearly documents examples of where there is a double standard

and at the same time…

  1. offers some universal guidelines or principles for best practice, eg
    • how to organise inclusive events,
    • how to pay people fairly for work,
    • how to give credit and support developers of open content (@winnieponcelet’s point above)*
    • best practice for designing participatory action research projects so that they are actually beneficial to the communities being studied…

We could use this as a resource to argue for better conditions.

This feels a lot like the early stages of union representation… think the Hans Böckler Stiftung would help us out…? :wink:

*btw - I think this is a really important issue. We’re really not doing our best if the only people who can contribute to open source are those with the luxury of free time. I think we need to find more ways to pay people to create open source content.

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