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There are also lab rooms that can be used for various analyses. Finally, there are other facilities, including conference and lecture rooms.

In addition to giving the rock material, all three of these companies have provided data to go along with it. These rocks would be worthless if we did not have any information about them, such as where they came from. So a key part of each donation is the information that comes with it. The companies have provided the name of the well, the geographic location where the well was drilled, and the depth of the cored interval. That information is key for researchers to figure out what the samples are and whether they would be useful for a particular research project. In most cases the companies have also provided a unique well number, which allows a researcher to get information from some of the commercial databases. For example, if a researcher knew that there was a core available from a particular well, she could then purchase a geophysical log from that well from a commercial database that owns the rights to the geophysical data. The information that has been supplied in addition to the rock is key to its use in the academic community. All these data are now available on the Internet, so anyone anywhere can search the holdings and decide if there is material that they would like to use.

Why, you may wonder, would a company donate proprietary geologic data to a university? The answer is that the company had completed its use of the core for exploratory purposes and therefore felt the best use of the material would be to donate it to an academic research facility. As Lord John Browne of Madingley, BP Chairman and CEO, stated in announcing the BP donation, “these are valuable books, but we've read them.” At the time these cores were taken, they were acquired for a specific purpose. The company may have been operating a field and needed rock information about that field to produce it more efficiently. Or the company may have been exploring a particular geographic part of the country and needed background information about what the reservoirs in general are like in that area, and these cores provided key information. Most of these companies no longer are exploring in the United States, and in many cases they have sold their fields to smaller companies. From their point of view, they have obtained the information they needed. However, they realize that the cores retain tremendous research value, and so they are willing to make these data publicly available.

As a result, these proprietary geologic data are entering the public domain, and they form important material for current areas of research, such as stratigraphy, sedimentology, and diagenesis, as well as areas of research that we have not even considered yet. This material is now preserved, so someday in the future, when somebody realizes how to use it in paleoclimatology research, for example, or some other field that we currently do not know how we can use the information, it has been preserved and future scientists can use it. If there is a new analytical technique that is developed in the future, the material will still be there, and new uses can be made of these rock samples. Of course, it is also a very important source of material for student theses and dissertations, and it is still of value in oil and gas exploration and production. Even though there are different companies operating in the United States now, usually smaller companies, these data are still of importance to companies producing from mature oil fields.

In conclusion, these companies have developed a business model for donating proprietary rock data to the academic community. These donations allow valuable, irreplaceable physical collections to enter the public domain. These donations were made possible by the accompanying donations of the physical space in which to store the rocks, and financial resources toward the cost of curating the cores and making them available to others. Finally, government grants have made a very important contribution to enabling The University of Texas to accept these donations by providing critical funds for the initial operating expenses while an endowment builds.



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