The Humanitarian Engineering Free-libre Open Source Pandemic Response Organizations

The Story of the Pandemic

  1. Open Source Medical Supplies (OSMS) has focused on delivering supplies and has probably saved more lives than these other organizations by focusing on PPE. They have organized volunteers to make simply designed masks, gowns and other equipment, and coordinated the actual delivery of these products. If you want to help provide PPE, this is the organization for you.
  2. Helpful Engineering (HE) has an active Slack community and is running about 10 interesting engineering projects. Even if you choose to join other organizations, you should join HE’s Slack team and whatever channels interest you (although the traffic can be dizzying). Submitting a profile there may allow you to be tapped by a team for a specific need. Helpful Engineering is dedicated to the painstaking process of bringing medical devices to market. HE has 18,000 people who have signed up but probably 200 active people in a given week, though most of those people may not be putting in many hours.
  3. Collective Open Source Medical Innovations for COVID-19 (COSMIC) is smaller and based out of British Columbia, Canada. COSMIC has skilled medical advice and is well organized; their monthly livestreams have about 30 part-time volunteers and report on four interesting projects.
  4. Public Invention (PubInv) focuses on research and invention in the public interest and is dedicated to promoting an open-source ecosystem of modular components for ventilation support. The VentMon monitor/tester is our flagship project. With the recent addition of PolyVent ventilator project, we are now making free-libre open source modules for every needed part of a complete ventilation and oxygen concentrator system. Public Invention has about 15 volunteers working 4 hours a week or more, on both pandemic and non-pandemic related inventions.

Blind Spots

The Present Need



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Robert L. Read

Robert L. Read


Public Inventor. Founder of Public Invention. Co-founder of @18F. Presidential Innovation Fellow. Agilist. PhD Comp. Sci. Amateur mathematician.