Self-made success, achieved together. How and why the DIYbio community engages in DIYbio projects and what makes them successful
Voort, Thomas van de
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In order to solve complex sociotechnical challenges scientific research is moving to a more democratized and socially distributed state. Synthetic biology is one of the fields in which one such movements has started, called the Do-It-Yourself-Biology (DIYbio) community. Cheaper equipment, communication technologies and automation of DNA sequencing and -synthesis increasingly allow DIYbiologists to start experimenting in self-made labs. The DIYbio community can be classified as a user community engaging in open, collaborative innovation projects, but it is unclear what makes these projects successful. This research therefore first investigates how and why the community members engage in DIYbio projects and then what characteristics make projects successful. User innovation and user community literature is used, along with literature on project success. Six characteristics are hypothesized to influence DIYbio project success: regulation, technology and market as industry specific factors and leadership, knowledge diversity and funding as project specific factors. To find out the motivations of DIYbiologists, 9 interviews with community, project, startup and lab leaders from over the world were conducted, transcribed, coded and analyzed. To find out what makes DIYbio projects successful, a survey was conducted among the DIYbio community with a response of 32. Ordinary Least Squares regression was performed in R to uncover possible relationships between the six independent variables and project success, supported by qualitative data of the interviews. Differences in how and why DIYbio is done are found between the US, EU and countries in Africa, South-America and Asia and between technology-oriented people and bio artists. The groups are connected through dissatisfaction with their jobs, a degree of activism, the urge to seek like-minded people, experimenting in their free time and an entrepreneurial mindset. A DIYbio project cycle from new to successful projects in relation to regulation, technology and market is created and key activities to enable DIYbio project success are defined based on interview data. In the regression analysis, the variable knowledge diversity is proven to have a positive significant relationship with project success. The different identified groups in the DIYbio community have different relationships to the six project characteristics because of their different motivations and cultures. The six project characteristics all have an influence on project success, but the exact relationships are more complex than a positive linear relation. The results are reflected on and compared to user community literature based on Open Source Software which unveils differences between the two communities.