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What Difference Does a Lab’s Turnaround Time Make?

August 21, 2017

Choosing a radiocarbon dating laboratory is not always easy; there are many factors to consider and often budgetary constraints to negotiate. An important factor in decision-making is how quickly the results are reported, particularly if there are deadlines to meet. Even when there is no impending deadline, a fast turnaround time can be important and lead to cost savings in the long run.

Make Informed Decisions During Fieldwork

Being able to get radiocarbon dating results while still in the field can inform and direct an ongoing excavation strategy. Whether surprising or expected, the results allow the limited time in the field to be utilized most efficiently, either by suggesting a change in approach or supporting the current plan. This allows cost savings in the long term as the excavation strategy can be adjusted on the go as needed, ensuring the best use of time and funds and avoiding repeat trips to the field, which can be extremely expensive.

Improve Research Strategies

Even if not in the field, waiting months for radiocarbon dating results can be detrimental to research and post-excavation work. While publication deadlines can provide a clear-cut need to prioritize a fast turnaround time, it is worth considering what difference a 14 business-day turnaround time can make even without a specific deadline.

Obtaining a chronological framework early on based on radiocarbon dating can direct the research strategy from the outset, therefore keeping a project on track and making the most efficient use of invaluable research time. Further analyses and other lines of evidence can be pursued in a timely manner, which prevents the need for any rush fees or last minute additional fieldwork. Having results available early therefore helps save money as well as time.

One option that is only possible with fast turnaround time is sending samples in batches; this can be beneficial particularly if there are unexpected results. Once the results for the first batch are reported, the decision can be made on whether to proceed with the rest of the samples immediately, date smaller batches or rethink and consult other lines of evidence first. Priority samples, such as those from a clear stratigraphic context, could be dated first as a starting point to gauge the reliability of the remaining samples while giving preliminary indications of the chronology of the site.

Beta Analytic – Reliable and Fast Radiocarbon Dating

ISO 17025-accredited Beta Analytic provides fast, high-quality radiocarbon dating services. There are several turnaround time options available ranging from 3 to 14 business days. To help make the most of limited budgets, Beta Analytic has removed cancellation fees for samples that are too small for dating after pretreatment and offers complimentary stable isotope analyses for bones, carbonates and water samples. For inquiries, please email lab@radiocarbon.com or call a local forwarding office.