Resource Investment

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Science  21 Oct 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6054, pp. 290
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6054.290-d

As Newton famously noted, researchers stand on the shoulders of giants, building on accumulated knowledge. But the mere production of knowledge does not ensure its use by others; societal benefit depends also on mechanisms for storing and accessing knowledge. Researchers have sought to understand how different institutions and policies can promote knowledge use and impact. To explore impacts of institutional resources in the life sciences, Furman and Stern studied the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC). Among the world's largest bio resource centers, ATCC maintains and distributes a vast collection of cell lines and microbiology cultures. Because each specimen deposited in ATCC is accompanied by an initial characterization in a journal article, bibliometric analyses of article citations provided tools to assess impacts of ATCC. Besides comparing articles that did and did not link to ATCC specimens, the authors also analyzed the timing of citation “boosts,” because the deposition of specimens at ATCC often did not occur until sometime after the initial journal article describing the specimen. The ATCC-deposit citation boost ranged from 57 to 135%, was higher for articles in less prestigious journals, and was concentrated on follow-up research into more complex subject matter. A rough approximation of “cost per citation” suggested that funders might consider increased investments in ensuring access to existing research rather than focusing so much on new research.

Am. Econ. Rev. 101, 1933 (2011).

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