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Scientists in poor countries have to pay up to 70 per cent more than their wealthier colleagues for identical scientific equipment and materials, a survey in the journal Nature has revealed.

The survey, which was carried out in Brazil, Germany, Poland, and the United States suggests that scientists in poorer nations are struggling to pay frequently inflated prices for such supplies. For example, Brazilian scientists have to pay 70 per cent more than their US colleagues for a kilogram of yeast extract, and 60 per cent more for a particular centrifuge.

Suppliers say that they do not have control of prices in individual countries, which are set by local distributors. The discrepancies are explained by market conditions — in particular, the higher costs of doing business in smaller, less established markets.

Link to full news story in Nature

Link to the results of the survey in Nature

Reference: Nature 428, 453 (2004)