Science Exchange: Creating an eBay for Science?

What happens when you want to conduct an experiment but don’t have the resources? Well, at the moment you would need to foster collaboration with another institution or outsource your work (and ideas) to another laboratory or department. Both of these processes take time – a lot of time. Bring in Science Exchange, a new venture which acts as a middle man between researchers who want to outsource their projects due to time, funding or equipment constraints and departments who wish to utilise their existing resources and increase their output (and income). Yes, having your science done for you comes at a price – but this is considerably less than it would cost to create an entirely new set-up. It is also logical and efficient – why replicate what is already available? So far so good, scientists who outsource experiments save money (and time); departments carrying out the research on their behalf gain extra income and experience. However, there is a concern that this model will lead to the conducting of experiments moving away from developed countries, where labour is expensive, to developing countries where the cost of labour is minimal. This could create something of an industrial revolution for science – think sweatshops for science. In this sense “efficiency” would really mean “losing jobs” in front line science of developed nations. What is clear is that not all science can easily be outsourced. For example, preliminary or novel studies lack the rigid protocols and level of detail required for an outside lab to carry out the research and therefore cannot be conducted successfully. It is hoped that Science Exchange will open up a lot of new possibilities and opportunities for researchers, but at this stage it is too early to tell what the wider impact on the way science is conducted will be.


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