[okfn-advisory] fund-raising idea for OKF

John Wilbanks wilbanks at creativecommons.org
Sat Dec 5 18:41:15 UTC 2009

>   Thanks, John.  What's the org dedicated to serving the data?  

For Merck, it's Sage. For the others, it's the National Center for 
Biotechnology Information and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

> Do you think a critical mass of pharma companies would pay to see their 
> open data (whatever volume they voluntarily opened up, and whatever its 
> licensing status) inch toward interoperability?  Behind this I'm 
> wondering whether they might cover the expenses of the project, even if 
> large, with some left over to support OKF general operations.

In my experience, not even close. The choice is whether to bury the data 
or share it, and in neither case is it considered worth an investment. 
It's a dump, plain and simple. We've had extensive conversations over a 
long period of time and have had zero luck raising a dollar for it. Open 
access to the literature is different, because in that area, pharmas are 
like universities (i.e., there's a library that faces a serials pricing 
crisis and can reallocate funds).

The only case where there's been an investment that I know of is in 
Sage, which is not just an open data project but instead is an actual 
medical research organization that has an open data component. But the 
investment is in the research part, not the open data part. There's a 
bunch of companies playing around in the W3C semantic web for life 
sciences project but that tends to be small, pointed investments of 
time, and I've heard rumbles that the membership model there is having 
some trouble sustainability wise.

We've looked at membership models extensively in our Health Commons 
project, and walked away from them. This proposal sounds an awful lot 
like Health Commons and I'm happy to share our experience there, but I 
can say for now that a membership model is a tough long term one.

> In any case, here's a Plan B.  If the interoperability project is too 
> ambitious, OKF could launch a smaller project simply to /track/ open 
> industrial data, starting with the pharma industry.  The project could 
> annotate the data sets to indicate where they were hosted, how they were 
> licensed, marked-up, preserved, and so on.  Because many companies 
> realize that they have an interest in freeing up some kinds of data, 
> they might fund a project to track and annotate it all.  At any time 
> that seemed propitious --if ever--, the project could become more 
> ambitious.

This tends to seem much more achievable to me. It leverages the 
excellent work in CKAN, which is a signature achievement of the OKF for 
me, at least in the tracking. As for annotation, I support that aspect, 
as well as trying to point out that annotation means *scientific* 
annotation and not just legal / policy / location. If you know something 
is freely available but not what it says...well, that's not so useful.

>      Peter S.
> On Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 1:05 PM, John Wilbanks 
> <wilbanks at creativecommons.org <mailto:wilbanks at creativecommons.org>> wrote:
>     It's hard work, I can tell you from experience :-)
>     The main thing is to work on getting data into existing registries
>     at EBI, EMBL, NIH, and so forth. Otherwise you're stuck in a world
>     where you're having to store, serve, and support data. Creative
>     Commons has spent an enormous amount of time on this topic and we're
>     starting to have real success. Merck's donation of data to Sage and
>     some more forthcoming work from other top-ten global pharma will
>     both fall into these lines - there's an org dedicated to serving the
>     data, our job is just making sure the data falls into the public
>     domain so that it can be reused, redistributed, and re-integrated.
>     jtw
>     Peter Suber wrote:
>          Just one quick follow-up to Peter MR:
>         On Sat, Dec 5, 2009 at 4:35 AM, Peter Murray-Rust
>         <pm286 at cam.ac.uk <mailto:pm286 at cam.ac.uk>
>         <mailto:pm286 at cam.ac.uk <mailto:pm286 at cam.ac.uk>>> wrote:
>            [...]
>            On Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 7:04 PM, Peter Suber
>         <peter.suber at gmail.com <mailto:peter.suber at gmail.com>
>            <mailto:peter.suber at gmail.com
>         <mailto:peter.suber at gmail.com>>> wrote:
>                First, OKF could launch a project on the "pre-competitive
>                sharing" of pharma data.  It could collect info on the
>         company
>                initiatives already under way, develop guidelines for other
>                companies, and so on. This much seems very compatible
>         with the
>                current OKF mission.  Call it Phase 1.
>                 I agree with this - it's obviously considerable work and
>         I am
>            wondering whether there is synergy with other bodies. I
>         suecpt that
>            we would need some funding for this.
>         Much of the info on existing initiatives I've already collected
>         in my blog.  It would have to be rounded out and brought up to
>         date.  But that phase of the project wouldn't have to start from
>         scratch.
>             Peter (Suber)
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>     ----------------------------------------------------------------
>     John Wilbanks
>     VP for Science, Creative Commons
>     http://creativecommons.org
>     http://sciencecommons.org
>     http://neurocommons.org
>     "We make sharing easy, legal, and scalable."
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John Wilbanks

VP for Science, Creative Commons

"We make sharing easy, legal, and scalable."

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