[Taxacom] The economics of biodiversity database initiatives

David Shorthouse davidpshorthouse at gmail.com
Sun Oct 27 20:42:24 CDT 2013

Ok, I'll bite, since you're looking for an argument.

Any startup with a product pitch won't be able to guarantee the profit
they'll generate for investors nor can they define market penetration
with any certainty. Just as there is risk to investors in the private
sector, there is risk to funding agencies in the public sector. Your
argument needs more clarity than you've been able to express.

 However, I do agree that evaluations of success or failure for
informatics initiatives need much greater definition. These should be
independent of political jurisdiction so there's better international
cooperation and deduping of effort. I have no doubt that agencies
would love to have such a community-defined list of criteria, which I
assume at the very least requires formal, interim reviews with
evidence of uptake much like what is done in the private sector as
agile development.

So Stephen, why not lead such a requirements document, solicit
feedback from your peers, and pitch it to various national and
international funding agencies? This way, there will be no need to
perpetuate such negative sentiment and real progress can be made.

David P. Shorthouse

On Oct 27, 2013, at 8:32 PM, Stephen Thorpe <stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz> wrote:

> Dear all,
> In a rare moment of clarity, I have just now realised why we are drowning in a multitude of not very useful biodiversity databases, funded by public money. The key point is that success of these initiatives is independent of end user usage of the product, i.e. they are not selling any product, and it really does not matter even if nobody uses the end product. This is because they are using public money rather than their own money. Although such funding is typically administered by government agencies, the driving force is not usage of the end product, but keeping people employed and money flowing thru the economy, and, unlike yesteryear, it must all make a profit (for govt. agencies). How can you make a profit when you are not selling anything? The profits are derived not from the end product but rather from the process of generating that end product. Creation of databases happens to be a relatively high profit process, compared with doing taxonomy, for
> example. So, even the slightest hint of justification for a new database will be accepted by the funding agencies, if it results in employment and profits, i.e. they dont need much convincing to part with public money! I suspect end user needs have very little, if anything, to do with it ...
> Cheers,
> Stephen
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