How do we assess the value of biological data repositories?

For the most part, model organism databases such as WormBase, FlyBase, SGD etc. offer an invaluable and indispensible resource to their respective communities. These sites exist due to funding agencies recognizing their essential nature, and are typically funded on five-year grants.

There are many other bioinformatics resources out there, most of which have probably been useful to some people at some time or other. But how should we decide what is useful enough to merit continued funding? It's a very tricky question, and is one which Todd Harris is starting to explore on his blog:

In an era of constrained funding and shifting focus, how do we effectively measure the value of online biological data repositories? Which should receive sustained funding? Which should be folded into other resources? What efficiencies can be gained over how these repositories are currently operated?

Worth a read. I've written before about the issue of whether there are too many biological databases, especially when very multiple databases emerge with heavily overlapping areas of interest. I think funding agencies and journals should think carefully before supporting/publishing new resources without first really establishing:

  1. Is this really needed?
  2. Does it overlap with other existing resources?
  3. What will happen to the resource should funding and/or personnel not be available to keep it going?