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Plant Data, for a Price

An online repository of botanical data previously funded by the National Science Foundation is forced to collect user fees for the first time in its 14-year existence.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Arabidopsis thaliana growing in the labWIKIMEDIA, JUCEMBERThe Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR), a popular online database that previously allowed plant biologists around the world to browse, download, and analyze genetic and molecular data harvested from the model organism for free, will begin charging users for access beginning in October. TAIR administrators had to have seen this coming. In 2009, the National Science Foundation (NSF) set in motion a four-year plan to eliminate funding for the resource—gradually trimming the database’s once $1.6 million annual NSF grant, until withdrawing funding completely on Saturday (August 31).

TAIR’s director, Stanford University plant biologist Eva Huala, told Nature that charging for access to the database was a last resort, enacted only when other alternative funding ideas failed to pan out. Nature reported that Huala said in an email to users that companies will have to pay for access to TAIR come October, and that...

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