It seems that in the world of bioinformatics, the concept of outsourcing work to third-parties (except where the third-party is an academic collaborator who will do the job for free!) is still in its infancy and so projects that involve this naturally take much longer from initial negotiation to work commencing. In Eagle's experience we have seen an average of 6 months from first customer contact to contracts being signed, with one particular project having been in the wait-and-see bucket for well over a year now!
Such drawn-out negotiation obviously doesn't do either party much good - the customer doesn't get what they need when they need it, and Eagle cannot plan very far ahead which inevitably pushes up prices to compensate for the lost time and uncertainty.
But who causes it?
And what can be done to reduce the time this process takes?
Those are both good questions without clear or obvious answers. As we grow and refine our business model, we hope to be able to answer them both in much more detail. For now though we suspect that there are two main groups of people which cause delays:
1. Lawyers, who do not truly understand the implications of open-source software/data, and who are wary of outsourcing due to fear of losing IP rights.
2. Funding agencies, who operate on massively long timescales, frown on using grant money to hire subcontractors, and dislike covering the full costs of small private companies acting as partners in bids.
These issues are unique to the academic environment in which most bioinformaticians operate, but they are not unique to bioinformatics. Companies operating in cheminformatics and other IT areas related to research must face similar hurdles. We'd be very interested to hear their experiences and how they've overcome them.