DataOnTools #3: Economics of tool development

Like any other research field, bioinformatics and software development are highly depend on funding. By extracting grants and other funding sources from tool publication, we provide a new insight on the economics of tool development.


Funding is a critical aspect of tool development. We ranked the sources of funding agencies associated with a total of 12,761 published tools to assess the top 20 tool-funding agencies worldwide (Figure 1). Nearly half of all published tools were funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Science Foundation (NSF), both US-based agencies.


funding tools omictools
Figure 1. Top funding agencies. Number of published tools by funding institutions (top 20).


Countries’ themselves take a critical role in funding research through national grants. Indeed figure 2 shows a high correlation (r=0.81; p<0.0001) between a country’s research and development (R&D) expenditure in GDP (UNESCO data) and the number of tools published by one of its institutions.


funding tools bioinformatics GDP omictools
Figure 2. Correlation between research and development expenditure (UNESCO data) and total number of tools produced by the top 20 countries with highest Gross Domestic Product (GDP).


Over the past few years (and arguably since its foundation), the field of bioinformatics has developed in the direction of both open-source data and software. Freely available tools and frameworks have already served as a foundation for building important applications and resources. In the OMICtools database, 270 out of 7,838 (3.4%) tools with a known license are registered with a commercial license while the remaining 7,568 tools are open-source (data not shown), confirming the commitment of bioinformatics tools developers to support open science.