Identify, quantify, act: tackling the unused potential of ecological research

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Marija Purgar, Tin Klanjscek, Antica Culina


‘Ignorance is expensive’. The statement also applies to ignorance of research inefficiencies that can generate huge waste: 85% of health research, amounting to $170 billion annually, is avoidably wasted. This alarming finding elicited a number of responses that have since reduced the waste in health research. Commonality of research and dissemination practices implies that other scientific fields could also benefit from identifying and quantifying waste and acting to reduce it. Yet, no estimate of research waste is available for other fields. Given that ecological issues interweave most of the UN sustainable development goals, we argue tackling research waste in ecology should be prioritized.
Our study leads the way. We estimate components of waste in ecological research, based on a systematic review and a meta-analysis. Shockingly, our results suggest only 11%-18% of conducted ecological research reaches its full informative value. Our duty towards science, environment, organisms we study, and the public dictates that we should urgently act and reduce this considerable yet preventable loss, and harness the full potential of ecological research. We propose to achieve this through actions from researchers, funders, journals, and academic institutions. Finally, we call for other research fields to adopt our framework and derive comparable estimates across scientific disciplines.



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences, Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


ecology, meta-science, publication bias, research life-cycle, research waste


Published: 2021-12-22 01:18


CC-BY Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International