What is the value of open data?

An independent analysis of EMBL-EBI underscores the value and impact of open data in the life sciences.

Report on the value and impact of EMBL-EBI underscores profound utility of open data
What is open data worth? An independent analysis of EMBL-EBI provides some fascinating insights.

UK-based consultancy Charles Beagrie Ltd has published an in-depth analysis of the value and impact of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), an intergovernmental organisation that delivers freely available molecular data and services to scientists around the world. The report values the benefits to users and their funders at £1 billion per annum worldwide – equivalent to more than 20 times the direct operational cost of the institute.

EMBL-EBI, located on the Wellcome Genome Campus near Cambridge in the UK, manages public life-science data on a very large scale, enabling scientists to share the results of their research, add value and re-analyse datasets in the light of new knowledge. The institute is primarily funded by EMBL member states, the National Institutes of Health in the US, the European Commission, Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Wellcome Trust and members of its Industry programme. EMBL-EBI data and services are freely available to everyone.

In addition to its contribution as one of EMBL’s member states, the UK Government has invested substantially in supporting EMBL-EBI’s essential infrastructure through the Large Facilities Capital Fund, in a series of large-scale projects managed and facilitated by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) on behalf of RCUK. As part of this work, the BBSRC strongly encouraged the establishment of a framework for measuring the value and impact of the institute. In 2015 EMBL-EBI commissioned Charles Beagrie, Ltd., an independent consultancy, to carry out a wide-ranging series of qualitative and quantitative analyses of the institute’s activities.

Open data is essential to the success and sustainability of biomedical and life-science research.

The report published today presents the results of these studies, examining the value and impact of its work using a robust methodology. Based on both measurable indicators and interviews with commercial and academic service users and collaborators, the report highlights efficiencies gained and money saved by companies and academic organisations that use EMBL-EBI services.

The value and impact report estimates that EMBL-EBI data and services contributed to the wider realisation of future research impacts worth £920 million every year. The annual direct efficiency impact was estimated at between £1bn and £5bn per annum.

Return on public investment

“We are very pleased to present our findings, which underscore the profound utility of open data in the life sciences and the lasting benefits to society of supporting a sustainable infrastructure for the reuse of publicly funded research data,” state report co-authors Neil Beagrie and Professor John Houghton. “We are indebted to the many EMBL-EBI users and partner organisations for taking the time to answer our questions and participate in the survey and case studies.”

“The findings of the value and impact assessment demonstrate that we are indeed providing a healthy return on the public investment in EMBL-EBI, but more importantly they help bring home the point that open data is essential to the success and sustainability of biomedical and life-science research,” adds Rolf Apweiler, Director of EMBL-EBI.

Professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC Executive Director of Science said, “EMBL-EBI provides vital life-science infrastructure for researchers in the UK and beyond, generating substantial opportunities for bioscience research and the generation of new knowledge. This report demonstrates clear return on investment for the institute and the research community to the benefit of society and the wider global economy.”

The executive summary and the full report are available online in printable format, at http://www.beagrie.com/EBI-impact-summary.pdf and http://www.beagrie.com/EBI-impact-report.pdf

Tags: apweiler, bioinformatics, database, embl-ebi, open data


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