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The current state of sustainability in bioscience laboratories: A statistical examination of a UK tertiary institute

Hazel A. Wright (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)
Joseph E. Ironside (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)
Dylan Gwynn‐Jones (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, UK)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Publication date: 11 July 2008

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to identify the current barriers to sustainability in the bioscience laboratory setting and to determine which mechanisms are likely to increase sustainable behaviours in this specialised environment.

Design/methodology/approach

The study gathers qualitative data from a sample of laboratory researchers presently conducting experimentation in the biological sciences. A questionnaire, regarding sustainability in the laboratory, was developed and distributed to all bioscience researchers at Aberystwyth University.

Findings

Although the majority of respondents had favourable attitudes to sustainability, almost three‐quarters (71 per cent) stated that they were not conducting their research in the most sustainable way possible. The factors most likely to hinder sustainable behaviour were lack of support, lack of information and time constraints. However, monetary costs and benefits, closely followed by “other” costs and benefits, were most likely to encourage sustainable behaviour in the laboratory.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need to extend the present research to other types of biological research, such as field‐based studies. Different biological disciplines may have different consumable requirements and waste streams, thereby changing the barriers to sustainability observed.

Practical implications

The findings have immediate practical implication for higher education institutions wishing to adopt researcher‐approved mechanisms to reduce the environmental impact of biological laboratory research.

Originality/value

This is the first study to design a sustainability questionnaire which is specific to research scientists and laboratory users. The paper is therefore of immense value to the numerous global higher education institutions with working laboratories which seek to minimise the environmental impact of research.

Keywords

Citation

Wright, H.A., Ironside, J.E. and Gwynn‐Jones, D. (2008), "The current state of sustainability in bioscience laboratories: A statistical examination of a UK tertiary institute", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 282-294. https://doi.org/10.1108/14676370810885899

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited