[okfn-discuss] Sustainable open data business question(s)

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Fri Apr 15 13:42:44 UTC 2011

I've been chatting on "Twitter" with @mfenner, a board member of
ORCID, about open licensing researcher identity data. ORCID -
http://orcid.org/aboutus - is a non-profit set up by a group of
academic publishers and a few university reps. It plans to provide a
universal ID and profile for every researcher worldwide, which can be
used to link together all kinds of scholarly publications and data.

"CC0 waiver applies to all data claimed by researchers. Many
organizations will also contribute CC0 data, but this not mandatory...
Balance of open data and sustainable business model difficult, need to
strike right balance: building and running ORCID not cheap."

My snap response to this is, open data and sustainable business are
not either/or - one can successfully have both, and increasingly one
will *need* to have both.

But the only example i've got of a really successful business built on
open data is Cloudmade - which sells custom hosted services based on
OpenStreetmap data. There must be quite a few others? So i am looking

 * examples of a successful 'business' sustainability model based on open data
 * more suggestions for how ORCID specifically could raise revenue
while opening all data

The neatest thinking i have seen in this area is by a Spanish social
network consultant called Genis Roca, here is a super-brief summary of
a talk of his i saw last year:

All that really applies here is "Databases... due to the audience" and
"Corporate use... due to the technology" - some organisations would
pay for information about the activity of the ORCID-active researcher
community; some organisations would pay for a hosted version of the
(open source) technology ("which of these twenty A. Rahman's actually
wrote this paper?)

At this point i could start speculating about an interesting world in
which research corporations are buying brain-time based on patterns of
relevant intellectual activity from ORCID-like services. But it is
late at night, and all i want right now is help in figuring out how to
build a sustainable "business" based on open data.

Postscript (sent this yesterday but from the wrong address, blackholed):

Some more feedback on "Twitter" suggested advertising or sponsorship based
revenue raising, and i summarily reject these as not sustainable.

@gnat wrote: Ideas for what to sell: custom dev, hosting, quality
control, support, timeliness.
Of which quality and timeliness most apply to data.
Recalling that geonames.org has a quality-based revenue stream -
pay a subscription for quality assured version of CC-BY licensed data...

More information about the okfn-discuss mailing list