When we created Science Exchange, we did so with the goal of helping scientists better find and access scientific services across instituti. We have since built a directory of 1400 services, as well as project management and payment systems to expedite the outsourcing process across 500 institutions.
Towards the aim of continually improving this process, we reached out to our user base earlier this year for their thoughts on outsourcing of experiments. Of the 160 users that responded to a 5-minute survey, we came upon some interesting insights into how research is currently outsourced and how Science Exchange could be optimized to help.
Below are some select figures from our survey, showing insights into why scientists choose to outsource, which services they tend to select, and the most important factor when selecting a service provider.
Lack of Equipment and Expertise Drive Outsourcing
We asked our users prominently why they would choose to work with a service provider, rather than conduct an experiment themselves (respondents could select more than one option). Not surprisingly, the most common response had to do with a lack of resources.
89 respondents noted they would outsource a service because they lacked the equipment at their own lab. 82 respondents said they would work with an expert service provider because they lacked the expertise.
This matched closely with our own reasons for creating Science Exchange, which has been optimized around searching for specific equipment platforms such as Affymetrix RNA Microarray and Illumina Next Generation Sequencing.
Bioinformatics and Analysis are Commonly Outsourced
Understanding that scientists tend to seek services they lack equipment or expertise for, we wanted to know which services they actually tend to outsource. Outside of regularly commoditized microarray and sequencing, we asked respondents to select from a range of possible service types (able to select more than one option again).
By far the most popular service selected was statistical analysis and bioinformatics (84 and 63 respondents, respectively). Also quite common were mass spectrometry (53 respondents) and microscopy (35 respondents).
One response we found interesting was clinical studies, which 49 respondents expressed interest in. While clinical studies are routinely conducted through outside experts, we were interested to find it take equal precedence as Mass Spectrometry and Microscopy services.
This was helpful for us to know, as though we already have 68 service providers bioinformatics and mass spectrometry, there was room for more clinical services. We look forward to bolstering these services in the coming year.
Location is the Most Important Factor
We lastly sought to understand for those respondents who routinely outsourced, what went into their choice of a service provider. Did they prioritize price, location, or testimonials?
The results surprised us. 68 respondents said the most important factor in selecting a vendor was the location, with a preference for local facilities (no one prioritized off-site vendors, understandably). The factors we though would take precedence, price and turn-around time, had 36 respondents and 29 responses respectively.
This was helpful for us to know, as we had been working on a new feature to help our users better find the services they needed by location. We recently launched a new ‘View by Map’ feature on our Search Results page, so users could find those facilities or labs in their own country or state.
Overall, the responses from the survey helped us to better understand our user’s needs, and re-affirm our vision for an efficient marketplace for scientific services. We look forward to continuing to optimize the platform this coming year.