Why OrgRef is free

Recently we launched OrgRef: an open dataset of academic and research organizations which is free for anyone to use. It certainly takes a significant amount of effort to create and maintain it, so it might seem like a strange decision to give it away for free. So why did we make that choice?

It’s only fair

Like many other reference sets, OrgRef is not researched “from scratch”. Instead it’s derived from existing open data which is already online. It would not be fair (or indeed legal in some cases!) to take information which others have taken the trouble to share online for free, and then repackage it as a commercial product.

It’s expected

Put another way, increasingly we’ve all come to expect that basic facts about people, places and things are freely shared for the common good. Resources like WikipediaGeoNames and Freebase have set a strong precedent. OrgRef certainly can’t claim to be in the same class as those great resources, and adding a price tag would just feel inappropriate.

It’s more useful

Without any “pay to play” barrier getting in the way, OrgRef has the potential to be really useful for publishing supply chain comms. Anyone can reference an OrgRef ID, and anyone else is free to look up what that refers to. The DOI and ORCID systems already serve a similar purpose for articles and authors respectively, so in some ways sharing open data about organizations provides the “missing piece”.

It’s good business

And of course, there’s also an indirect benefit to DataSalon in creating OrgRef for the publishing community. It strengthens our credentials as a company willing to contribute to the industry, and it opens the door to new conversations with existing customers, and with those we haven’t worked with before.

Feedback so far has certainly been extremely positive, so we must be doing something right! Help and input is very welcome, so take a look at the OrgRef website if you’d like to get involved.