Knowledge is being lost at an “astonishing rate” mainly because scientists are so disorganised, a study has found.
Evaluation of more than 500 randomly selected studies showed that 20 years after publication, 80 per cent of their original data had vanished.
Mundane issues of organisation, like out-of-date e-mail addresses and obsolete storage devices were chiefly to blame, researchers said.
The key problem was said to be that authors were expected to store and look after their own data.
“I think nobody expects that you’d be able to get data from a 50-year-old paper, but to find that almost all the data sets are gone at 20 years was a bit of a surprise,” Timothy Vines of the University of British Columbia, Canada, who led the study said.