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September 6, 2012
Databases and Money
The NIH has been cutting back on its funding (via the National Libraries of Medicine) for a number of external projects. One of those on the chopping block is the Biological Magnetic Resonance Bank (BMRB), at Wisconsin:
The BMRB mission statement is to “collect, annotate, archive and disseminate (worldwide in the public domain)” NMR data on biological macromolecules and metabolites, to “empower scientists” and to “support further development of the field.” Despite its indisputable success in achieving these goals, the BMRB is facing serious funding challenges.
Since 1990, the BMRB has received continuous support from the National Library of Medicine (NLM), at the US National Institutes of Health, in the form of five-year grants. However, the BMRB obtained its latest grant renewal in 2009, accompanied by a sharp reduction in the funding level. It was also to be the last renewal, as the NLM announced that funding for all external centers would be phased out as their grants expire. Thus, as of today, the BMRB has no means of financial support after September 2014.
That editorial link above, from Nature Structural and Molecular Biology, also has a several other database projects formerly supported by the NLM. These are far enough outside my own field that I've never had call to use any of them as a medicinal chemist, but (as that last link shows) they are indeed used, and by plenty of researchers.
This problem won't be going away, since the volume of data produced these days shows no sign of any inflection points. Molecular genetics, protein biology, and structural biology in general are producing vast piles of material. Having as much of it as possible brought together and curated is clearly in the best interest of scientific research - but again, who pays?
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