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Free Stuff

For Science on a Shoestring Budget

poster with sneaker, planet Earth, and recycling symbolANITA MORA, NIAID


Do you need to order equipment or supplies or get rid of items you no longer need? Before you do anything, check out the NIH FreeStuff Web site ( to see what you can get for free or give away.

The NIH FreeStuff program was developed in 2011 by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and piloted by NIAID’s Division of Intramural Research. In 2012, it expanded to include all NIAID scientists and staff. And on April 2, 2013, the NIH FreeStuff program achieved its long-range goal: It became available to all of NIH.

The FreeStuff Web site is easy to use and the home page even includes two short instructional videos on how to post—and search for—such items as scientific equipment, lab supplies, office equipment and supplies, copy machines, printers, computers, and furniture. You simply post descriptions and photos of items you want to give away or search the site for things you need and submit requests to the people who posted those items.

When you exchange equipment and supplies this way rather than buying new or discarding the old—or immediately transferring them to the NIH Gaithersburg Distribution Center (GDC) warehouse—NIH saves money. From October 1, 2011, to January 15, 2013, 21 items were transferred within NIAID for a savings of nearly $57,000. Now that the program has become NIH-wide, even greater savings are expected.

The FreeStuff project team—which includes co-leaders Gwen Shinko and Claro Yu as well as members Jason Barnett and Shankar Somasekhar, all from NIAID—is exploring ways to coordinate with other NIH entities that also share or store unwanted equipment and supplies. For example, you can find surplus chemicals by calling the Division of Environmental Protection (in the Office of Research Facilities). And you can locate surplus furniture and equipment by looking through NBS reports or by going to the NIH Property Branch’s Surplus Yard on the Bethesda campus or GDC warehouse. The team hopes, however, that some of those items might be suitable for posting on the FreeStuff Web site. But remember, the site only works well if we all use it.