Wastage of Research Data

It is assumed that huge amount of research data is wasted every year. This happens in every part of the world. But what actually constitutes wastage of research data is not clear. Similarly, the volume of research data wasted every year is unknown. This is because there is no known measurement for wastage of research data.

So, what is wastage of research data? When can we say a research data is wasted? How do we know that it is wasted? How research data gets wasted? How can we measure how much (of a) research data is wasted in a defined period of time? What is the cost of wastage of research data? We all know that little attempts have been made to answer these questions.

This is an excellent area for further exploration. The evidence from such exploration would help in preventing wastage of research data and/or mitigating the impacts…

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One Response to “Wastage of Research Data”

  1. Up-Dated Cost of Poster Presentations:

    One of the areas I am looking at is conference presentations.

    Oral presentations normally have a text that is presented to most of the (X) delegates, fully presented in conference proceedings (reaching X amount of people), and often later developed into a journal article. This article is in principle available to (Y) number of people, though we do not know how many actually read it, other than by citation metrics.

    Poster presentations (& their abstracts) also purport to disseminate information, but posters are shown in experience and literature to attract little individual attention at conferences (only a small proportion of X). Also, as there is less of a text that is readily convertible, only somewhere @ 30% are developed into a published article which may reach (Y) people.

    If funders are supporting conference dissemination, then they should consider if X is a large enough representation of the peer-audience, given the amount of money that is invested in a conference presentation.

    ** Here is a conservative idea of what conference poster presentations may cost:

    1. We cannot quantify how many conferences are held in each speciality, in each type of organisation, in each country etc. Also, we cannot quantify the professional associations, bodies etc. for each discipline on local, regional, national and international scales, so we need to make some estimations we can then apply to our own situations.

    22,119 universities had a visible net presence in 2014 that indicated they were functional and reputable institutions (see http://www.webometrics.info/en/About_Us). Conferences are held by academic and disciplinary bodies, but just from an academic perspective:


    1. Each of the identified institutions held only one conference each year
    (many faculties hold their own events and also fund attendance at others)

    2. Each conference hosted only 50 poster presentations (larger events can host 2000+). This gives us a potential 1,105,950 poster presentations every year.


    3. 1 week is spent preparing the poster (40 hours in the US), and an hourly wage of US$34 represents a median of the overall median wages in US higher education (2013-14) and the median advertised wage for a US student. (verified)

    4. Each poster cost $62 to print

    (this is the 2014 median cost of 5 random poster printing services – A1/A0 size + paper/fabric formats) (verified)

    5. A $200 conference fee was charged

    (Smaller/funded events may have lower or no fees. Larger national/ international events are more expensive and in 2005, the average registration fee was estimated at US$425) (verified)

    6. $250 is attributed to travel, accommodation, meals, car rental and unspecified expenses

    (Some presentations will only entail the cost of producing the poster, but some will involve significantly higher costs associated with travel, hotels, car hire, taxis etc. There is no way to reliably account for such expenditure, but it has accounted for 76% of conference costs in previous reckoning) (verified)

    ** This gives an expenditure of $1,872 per poster presentation **

    ** These combined figures suggest a conservative estimated annual poster expenditure of $2,070,338,400 …….

    Think of it what you will, but we are looking at a CONSERVATIVE estimate of TWO BILLION DOLLARS, dedicated to displaying information that few see either during or after the conference. Think of your own field, your own country, your own professional/academic bodies, your own conferences & apply these figures … I guarantee that you will reach similar results.

    If the idea of research is to uncover things that may be of use to society, and the idea of conferences is to disseminate this type of data to peers who may use it, then this certainly indicates that such significant resources of time and money could achieve more ‘bang for their buck’.

    Conferences are great for us as individuals, but we also serve a wider purpose – to produce work that will help others. If this work is not seen, then others cannot use it & any funding it has been given is potentially wasted. We operate under the presumption that we learn lots, share lots and grow as professionals at such events, but there is literature that suggests that for many, conference attendance is a situated practice …. Cinderella gets funding to go to the ball, is dazzled by the illustrious key-notes, the exotic break from the desk, the inclusion in scholarly company, the chance to contribute (even though few may see their contribution) etc. When Cinderella gets back & a funder asks “tell me exactly what I got for my money?” … what level of ‘measurable return’ is reasonable? I spoke to X number of delegates about … ; I got these ideas which apply to my work & will now work on … , with an aim to … ; I will share my conference findings at such and such meeting …. All too often we end up with a few well intended notes that no longer hold such great importance, a number of business card from people who you can’t remember, and a load of pens, post-it notes etc.

    I think that conference delivered information is one area that needs to be expanded to consider the global ‘peer’ audience, & also just how cost-effective our activities are. After all, you could just sit down for 30 minutes and write a comment on a blog post … it is infinitely cheaper, contains a similar level of detail, reaches probably more people than something like a poster & has the potential for others to reply from around the globe … for years to come (in case you missed it when it first went up).

    The only downside is the un-exotic location of my desk 😦

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