Quantifying research waste in ecology

Marija Purgar, Tin Klanjscek, Antica Culina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
34 Downloads (Pure)


Research inefficiencies can generate huge waste: evidence from biomedical research has shown that most research is avoidably wasted and steps have been taken to tackle this costly problem. Although other scientific fields could also benefit from identifying and quantifying waste and acting to reduce it, no other estimates of research waste are available. Given that ecological issues interweave most of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, we argue that tackling research waste in ecology should be prioritized. Our study leads the way. We estimate components of waste in ecological research based on a literature review and a meta-analysis. Shockingly, our results suggest only 11–18% of conducted ecological research reaches its full informative value. All actors within the research system—including academic institutions, policymakers, funders and publishers—have a duty towards science, the environment, study organisms and the public, to urgently act and reduce this considerable yet preventable loss. We discuss potential ways forward and call for two major actions: (1) further research into waste in ecology (and beyond); (2) focused development and implementation of solutions to reduce unused potential of ecological research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1390–1397
Number of pages8
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number9
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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