Sustainable funding for biocuration: The Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) as a case study of a subscription-based funding model

Database (Oxford). 2016 Mar 17;2016:baw018. doi: 10.1093/database/baw018. Print 2016.


Databases and data repositories provide essential functions for the research community by integrating, curating, archiving and otherwise packaging data to facilitate discovery and reuse. Despite their importance, funding for maintenance of these resources is increasingly hard to obtain. Fueled by a desire to find long term, sustainable solutions to database funding, staff from the Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), founded the nonprofit organization, Phoenix Bioinformatics, using TAIR as a test case for user-based funding. Subscription-based funding has been proposed as an alternative to grant funding but its application has been very limited within the nonprofit sector. Our testing of this model indicates that it is a viable option, at least for some databases, and that it is possible to strike a balance that maximizes access while still incentivizing subscriptions. One year after transitioning to subscription support, TAIR is self-sustaining and Phoenix is poised to expand and support additional resources that wish to incorporate user-based funding strategies. Database URL:

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Data Curation / economics*
  • Databases, Genetic
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Research Support as Topic / economics*
  • Software