Report Examines Economic Benefits of Scientific Collections

A new advisory report, entitled, “Economic Analyses of Federal Scientific Collections,” explores the economic benefits of Federal scientific collections.  The report provides a framework for economic analyses, including methods for documenting long-term operating costs and benefits of collections.

The study was commissioned by the Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC)—part of the White House National Science and Technology Council.  IWGSC is co-chaired by the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Department of Agriculture and consists of representatives from more than 15 Federal departments and agencies, each of which owns, manages, or provides financial support for scientific collections spread across a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines. The report was produced by IWGSC’s Economic Study Group—a panel comprised of federal researchers, economists, collections professionals and budget or policy specialists and chaired by David E. Schindel, Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution.

The report provides illustrative examples of the services enabled by scientific collections, including their contributions to vaccine development and earthquake preparedness. While this report focuses on collections owned, operated and/or supported by government agencies, the methods presented in the report are universally applicable to museums, universities, research institutions and industries around the world.  “Although the report is focused on Federal scientific collections, its content applies to myriad collections and leads to many public benefits,” said Scott Miller, Smithsonian chief scientist and IWGSC co-chair. “The report is especially timely given the economic stress on research and organizations because of COVID-19.”

“The benefits generated by federal institutional collections can take many forms, both monetary and non-monetary,” argues the report.  “These benefits are usually indirect and delayed, and the value chains that connect costs to benefits are generally difficult to document.”  The report outlines a standard framework for estimating long-term operating costs and describes five different methods, along with their strengths and weaknesses, for estimating and documenting the benefits generated by collections. Examples presented in the report highlight how the differences among collections and their missions require different methods. The report also provides guidance on how to select the most appropriate methods to make evidence-based decisions. According to the authors, demonstrating the long-term value of scientific collections can help institutions preserve these important resources to address future challenges. 

Read the report at: https://iwgsc.nal.usda.gov/economic-analyses-federal-scientific-collections