The development and maintenance of open technologies and systems for research and scholarship require funding and other resources. In line with our mission to improve funding and resourcing for these technologies, we at Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI) feel that it is crucial to better understand the flow of funding into open infrastructure services. Our intention is not only to shed light on who’s funding whom/what, but also to identify neglected areas and untapped opportunities to make funding more reliable and consistent over time. The expectation is that open tools and technologies can be the default and ultimately contribute towards building a thriving open infrastructure ecosystem.

Here, we present an initial exploration of funding for open infrastructure services by analysing grant information reported by funders from 2010 to 2020. Based on our previous work to define key terms and concepts and identify available data sources, we iteratively collected and analysed information on cash grants from 28 open infrastructure service providers and 21 funders. The compiled dataset is made available on Zenodo.

The goal of this exploration is to identify trends in funding allocation as well as gaps in funding information. Our investigation also aims to craft more questions on resource allocation that can be explored in future studies using financial data and input from stakeholders within the space.

You can also view a presentation by our Research Data Analyst Tania Hernández Ortiz on this work, from our Funders Summit.

Key observations and findings

  1. The Wellcome Trust, Arnold Ventures, the Helmsley Charitable Trust, the Sloan Foundation, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative are among the major funders between 2010 and 2020. We identified at least 21 funders who contributed more than 106 million USD to open infrastructure services, with the top five funders providing 73% of all funding, and the remaining 27% distributed among 16 other funders.
  2. Funding cycles are complex, which leads to unpredictability of funding. There is a lack of detailed information on funding time frames, which makes it challenging for open infrastructure service providers to project financially and assess the financial sustainability of their services.
  3. Funders have different profiles, and funding allocation and continuity of support to open infrastructure services differentiate them. We identified two emerging funder profiles based on the number of services and funding amounts, with one profile of funders investing in numerous services, while the other allocating funds to fewer services but with higher investments in each.
  4. Limited and incomplete data suggest that a handful of open infrastructure services attract most resources in the ecosystem. Through examining the funders providing multiple grants to open infrastructure services, we have identified some funders who offer multiple grants to the same services.

Next steps

Through this exploration, we recognize the importance of having more data sources and more complete data in being able to observe more trends and make meaningful, robust projections.

We intend to continue to work with funders and open infrastructure service providers to continue to grow and improve the dataset we have. As with our work with the Catalog of Open Infrastructure Services, It is also our priority to make this data useful for decision makers, open infrastructure service providers, funders, and other stakeholders.

To this end, we’re running a survey to understand what other data sources we can include in furthering this work and to identify use cases for future observations and forecasts. By completing this survey and spreading the word about this work, you can contribute to strengthening and expanding this analysis and help increase our shared understanding of the open infrastructure ecosystem.

Social media image by Anna Nekrashevich on Pexels.

Posted by Tania Hernandez & Emmy Tsang