New study predicts over $6 billion in unused data and samples in academic institutions
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tucson, Arizona-July 25, 2023 - A new study published in Cell Press’s iScience reveals that billions of dollars in unused data and samples remain untapped in the nation’s laboratories. The study, led by researchers from the University of Arizona, Texas A&M University and LabPair, Inc., collected anonymous survey responses from 301 government and academic scientists regarding their unused resources and reasons for their disuse.
“Research and development can accomplish amazing things; but this process can be inefficient and fraught with systemic challenges. As a result, some data never get published and many samples are never used. Scientists acknowledge this as an unfortunate part of the research process. But, what is not clear is how big of a problem this actually is, how unused resources translate into costs, and what could be done to remedy the loss,” said Emma Bowers, MS, PhD, founder and chief executive officer of LabPair and lead investigator of the study.
Based on self-reported estimates from researchers, the typical researcher has about 300–500 unused samples and 10–24 data sets that have not been published in peer-reviewed journals. The value of these unused resources amounts to approximately $29,000 for the typical researcher, with the highest median asset values reported by those in the life sciences ($36,000) and the government ($109,000). Using National Science Foundation headcounts for U.S. institutions, the team projected that the value of unused data and samples in academia alone is $6.2 billion.
In terms of obstacles, the study results revealed unfinished projects were the primary source of unpublished data, usually caused by personnel changes compounded by time constraints. Regarding use of extra samples, their availability is not widely known, which makes finding collaborators difficult. The perception of negative results as being difficult to publish was also a large contributing factor.
“Scientists are highly motivated to increase their productivity and while a lot of attention has been focused on complexities associated with the publication process, this study suggests that progress can also be realized by focusing on logistical challenges,” said Kenneth Ramos, MD, PhD, executive director of the Texas A&M Health Institute of Biosciences and Technology and a collaborator in the project.
To tackle these problems, Bowers founded LabPair, Inc. a web-based information exchange that enables creative approaches to deploying unused resources in the nation’s laboratories.
The full article can be found here: https://www.cell.com/iscience/fulltext/S2589-0042(23)01243-9
Name: Emma Bowers
Bowers, E. C., Stephenson, J., Furlong, M. & Ramos, K. S. Scope and financial impact of unpublished data and unused samples among U.S. academic and government researchers. iScience 26, (2023).