Maintaining existing data management tools VS Innovative methods

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     The purpose of organizing information is to be able to use it effectively. Stepping into the era of Big data, it becomes almost impossible to process these large volumes of data using database management tools. This complexity thus challenges the financial support offered to old data management tools. A News report form Nature -International weekly journal of science by Monya Baker titled ‘Databases fight funding cuts - Online tools are becoming ever more important to biology, but financial support is unstable’ gives us an insight into the reactions of database users to the move by U.S National Library Magazine. The details in the news report gives rise to an important question – Should an organization continue funding an established database or redirect funds to other innovative means.

      The funding cut had evoked stormy responses from users of existing databases. Mark Musen, a bioinformatician at the Stanford University and Manager at Protégé , an open source software to organize and interrelate data views the funding cut as a serious problem to all those who rely on this data. The NLM had stopped funding the Protégé in 2007 which had 200,000 registered users. Musen had submitted a grant application to the NIH (National Institues of Health) with support letters from more than 100 scientists, but it was turned down. Another database hit by this move- Biological Magnetic Resonance Data Bank also had support from scientists stating that losing the database would deprive researchers of access to crucial data. All those who were directly affected by the funding cut converged on a common ground saying a well established database needs to be maintained.

      In reaction to this, Valerie Florance, Director for Extramural programmes at the Library justifies the funding cut as a diversion of funds toward research and training and that NLM should back innovation. She also elucidates the fact that grant and initial funding offered to a database need not continue forever.

      Innovation can be beneficial when it can build upon a previously existing system. An entirely new system that would start form scratch and not allow users to leverage the benefits of the old system may not be worth the change. The whole intention of organizing data is lost if the users (who are the focus of an organization) do not get what the intend to get out of it.


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