fees for providing data

Amy Edwards aedwards at MUSEUM.ENT.UGA.EDU
Fri Jan 27 14:04:18 CST 1995

Peter Rauch's list of questions is very long and my answer is also very
long; but I am interested in this discussion on cost.  Please note most of
our contracts are not simply for print-outs from our database as might have
been assumed.  These are fees for services of many types.

>Assuming that your collection must, in some manner, pay its bills:
This is correct, the University of Georgia Museum of natural History is
provided with an annual budget for supplies, equipment and staff.  In
addition our budget is spread across three areas: research, on campus
educational support (undergraduate/graduate programs) and service (off
campus educational support).

>1. How did you come to decide that recovering part of the costs of
>existence/operation should come from a direct billing of users?
To provide assistance at the current requested level we have to come up
with more funds.  That can be through grants/contracts and additional
university/state support.  The terms, costs and methods are derived from
university/department policy and the Director of the museum.

>2. What _exactly_ is the basis for your charges?
The charges are based on many things and depend on the type of request and
who requests it.  The effort/cost of doing library research, retrieving
data from our dbf, doing field surveys, preparing specimens, teaching a
workshop are all different.  And sometimes our fees reflect those
differences, but we have tried to make our bookkeeping easier by charging
flat fees for 'lab' time ($50/hr), 'field' time ($250/day) and then direct
cost recovery for supplies and vehicle use.  The charges are based on what
others that provide the same service are charging.  We have/do checked with
people we have contracts with to make sure this is the case.

>3. Why are some "kinds" of people billed at different rates than others?
We charge fees to companies and agencies for use of our facilities and
personnel time.  We do not charge individual researchers or students except
under very specific circumstances.  The university has a set policy of
overhead charges for contracts with different agencies (Federal, state,
local, private, inter-university).  We also have a mandate not to
'under-cut private companies'; that would be like the state subsidizing a
private company.  We are also talking about contractual agreements.
Sometimes it takes months to work out the details in a contract to the
satisfaction of both parties (we have lawyers that do that stuff - I can't
understand all the section, paragraph and party of the 1st part stuff).

>4. What alternative forms of cost recovery other than charging the
>end user did you consider and reject before you embarked on the direct
>end user method?

We still do make some direct cost recovery arrangements on an individual
basis (you by the jars or ethanol or lend us a student to do supervised
work).  It really depends on what we are talking about what sort of
latitude we have in what/how we charge.  But we do have to pay for the
equipment, supplies and sometimes student labor to do what people are
requesting and the university can not support private companies that will
be charging others for what we are providing to them.

>5. What percentage of your annual operating budget is covered by the
>revenues generated from these "record" charges?
The income from contracts, just like grants, covers the cost of that work.
Any additional funds are used to support the museum - buy computer
equipment, jars, ethanol, paper, cases or field equipment (we don't get an
annual bonus or anything like that).  The total can look significant, but I
don't think the net is.

>6. Do you permit those who purchase your data to resell it? Do you get
>a share of the receipts?
I guess yes for part a, and not currently for part b.

>7. Are you any more liable, in a legal sense, for the quality of
>the data you sell than for the data you give away?
Maybe.  Often our contracts spell out the exact amount of liability the
university has for what we are providing and what actions may be legally
taken under the contract.

>8. Do you make exceptions in deciding to charge or not, for any of
>the "kinds" of people who request your data? E.g., hardship case;
>(un)meritorious project; special handling; ...?
Yes, nothing is ever equal.  Sometimes we can not provide or do not wish to
provide what is requested.

>9. What is different about data provided from an electronic database
>than data obtained manually from specimens that makes it rational to
>charge for it?
It is quicker and easier to search an electronic data base than to go
through the collection record book or specimens.  It may not be more
accurate.  But it costs us a lot of our budget to maintain the computers,
provide computer supplies and pay the personnel who enter, proof, maintain
and retrieve the info. from the computers.

Amy Edwards, Program Coordinator ------- aedwards at museum.ent.uga.edu

Museum of Natural History        --------        phone (706) 542-4137
University of Georgia            --------            FAX 706-542-3920
Athens, GA 30602

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