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Statement on the Future of ProMED

We recognize that members of the ProMED community are concerned about the continuation of the platform and want to reassure them that we hear their concerns. We know how many in our community start their day with ProMED and rely on its reports for their work. We also know that we could have communicated changes more clearly to the community and apologize for any confusion and distress caused.

We want to reassure users that ProMED services continue in a limited capacity, but there will likely be a temporary reduction in the number of posts on the website while we work with the signatories to yesterday’s letter.

Regarding delays in payments to Moderators, this is unfortunately not a unique situation because ProMED has always operated on a shoestring budget. This means that sometimes payments are delayed due to cash flow or funding issues. Over ProMED’s almost 30 years of existence, payment terms to Moderators have thus changed and evolved. We have addressed this more recently by stabilizing the predictability of payments. However, as we are currently in a funding pinch, we communicated in July to the ProMED team that some payments would be delayed, potentially up to two months. Despite this, some stipends have been paid in full but we still have more to cover. Some colleagues asked to be paid sooner because of personal circumstances, which we have accommodated.

When it comes to the long-term future of ProMED, the management team has been working consistently to address the lack of funding to keep ProMED running. Moving toward a predictable sustained revenue stream for the massive amount of work that takes place within ProMED is not something we should be afraid to talk about. It takes resources to provide early warning alerts to the world that so many industries, bodies, and governments depend on. I want to emphasize that the challenge is not ProMED’s alone. We know many peer organizations around the world are facing similar funding issues and have been working alongside other global bodies to address this gap. Underinvestment in public surveillance is a global issue.

For more than a year, we have been discussing ProMED’s financial plight with the many different entities and all key super-users of ProMED data. We have reiterated the need for sustained funding with such users to allow us to update the technology and deliver a modernized working environment for our ProMED Moderators, Correspondents, and Rapporteurs, as well as provide better curation of data for our many thousands of users around the world. However, no funding has materialized. The only viable path forward is to move to a subscription-based model, and in essence, decommission scrapers. This is not a move we wanted to make but in the absence of external funding, is required to keep ProMED operating.

To address other concerns that ProMED has not considered all investment avenues, I can confirm that to date, ISID has not received any proposals for funding partnerships, endowments, or revenue sharing. We are open to funding proposals from any interested party. Many have stated the need for ProMED and talked about the need for change, but no one has followed this up with concrete funding. Despite this, we have continued to provide the world with many key first alerts in the modern age, with subject matter expert data curation unparalleled by any other entity.

ISID has been covering the costs for ProMED since 1999, and piecing together small funding amounts is not feasible any longer. There is a perception that ProMED has sustained funding, but that has never been the case. With the need for staff, technology upgrades, and all the software as a service we pay for to keep emails flowing to our 20,000 subscribers, we need a new business model. We are working tirelessly on all fronts for unrestricted grants, and are exploring and open to strategic partnerships.

We know our community wants to do even more with ProMED. And we want to deliver for them. Our vision for an upgraded, mobile, and sophisticated platform that meets the needs of our subscribers requires unrestricted operational funding and investment. We ask organizations to get in touch if you can fund, want to partner, or have a collaborative proposal to share at [email protected].

Linda C. MacKinnon, MPH, PMP

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