Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How much money is in the scientific data management 'business'?

The answer to this question probably nobody knows... But, based on some numbers I know, I will give a rough estimate on how much money potentially could be made with scientific data management - in Europe.

The 7th European Framework Programme (fp7) provides more than 50 billion € for research projects between 2007-2013. The structure of fp7 is quite complicated and it is almost impossible to find out how much of this money exactly is spent for bio- and geosciences.
The themes 'Agriculture and Fisheries, Biotechnology' and 'Environment (including Climate Change)' alone are funded with > 3.8 billion €. So let's estimate the European Commission spends around 4 billion € for bio- and geosciences.

SourceMio €
fp7 (total)50000
fp7 (bio/geo themes)~4000
fp7 (potential for DM)~45-50

To my knowledge, those European research projects which provide some money for data management, reserve 0.5-3% of the total project funding for this purpose. The mean percentage is about 1.5%. From the 4 billion I mentioned above, some projects may not need data management at all. However, if at least 75-80% of all research projects produce data, 1.5% of the remaining 3 billion € would include around 45-50 million € for data management. This seems to be much money, but the fp7 started in 2007 and will last until 2013, so the yearly amount of money for data management (DM) potentially(!) spent is around 6.5-7 Mio €. The potential market for scientific data management still seems to be considerable.

Of course this money is not really spent. The percentage of projects which include proper data management is certainly below 75%. I would estimate less than 30% of all projects reserve money for data handling. Further, we need to consider that proponents from 27 member countries compete for this money (as little appropriate data centers exists the competition for the remaining millions is not as hard in reality...).

I used the fp7 example, as the European Commission has shown considerable interest in improving open access to scientific data. As far as I know, this issue is also considered in project proposal evaluations. However, the money the European Commission spends is only one possibility for funding, ideally national funding agency will also support access to data. If you are living in a lucky country, national funding for DM could equal the amount the Commission spends.

In summary, I think the scientific data management niche is still interesting, while there is not as many money you might have expected. However, as the importance of e-science infrastructures and open access to scientific information has only recently been recognized, this sector may still grow in the future.

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