Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The price of data

[Photo: Edinburgh University Data Library]

I really was planning on taking a blogging break, but the philanthropy news (scandals) just keeps-a-comin'.

Long time readers know that the role, value, access to, and use of data in philanthropy and public problem solving are some of my key interests. It's a major theme in my last book, an organizing principle for a wiki I plan to launch in 2009, the core of a coming book. I just did a little search and found that "data" and "knowledge" are two of the most used tags on this blog.

And now, there is a price tag I can hang on data. Or at least the data held by one foundation. The price tag? $38 million. That's a pretty hefty sum in and of itself. It is even more impressive in light of this particular foundation's 2007 990 report which shows $16 million in assets.

How do I know how much these data are worth? Because Pfizer was just ordered by a court to pay $38 millions for stealing the foundation's data.

What happened? According to news reports, the Ischemia Research and Education Foundation and Pfizer were engaged in protracted negotiations to develop a data sharing agreement. These negotiations fell apart. Apparently, Pfizer instead entered into an agreement with a foundation staff person to get access to the Foundation's clinical trial database. The company claims its actions were legal, and it's just stuck between an employee and his former employer. The Santa Clara County Court didn't agree, and fined Pfizer $38 million for stealing trade secrets.

There you have it. I've been saying it for years, data matter. And they are very, very valuable.

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