Database aims to help researchers share high-priced equipment

A new program has launched aimed at making it easier for researchers in Atlantic Canada to share science equipment like mass spectrometers and highly powerful microscopes.

Universities around the region have lots of high-priced equipment bought with public money that should be used efficiently, according to David McCorquodale, the chair of Science Atlantic, the organization behind the effort.

A database, AFRED, has been developed to outline what equipment is available at post-secondary institutions in the region.

McCorquodale, who is also dean of science and technology at Cape Breton University, noted as an example the highly specialized mass spectrometers in the university's chemistry department.

The devices, which measure masses within a sample, are "not used to full capacity," he said, and could be made available to outside researchers for a "relatively small price."

Another example is Dalhousie University's acquisition of microscopes that are the best in the region for certain types of research. McCorquodale noted a fellow CBU biology researcher, Vicky Salazar, would relish the opportunity to use them.

"I think some of those microscopes, well, she'd just drool."

McCorquodale said getting the maximum use out of equipment, which in some cases costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, could lead to surprising research results and spur economic development.