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The game and the wiki both say that the laboratory room gives a +10% "efficiency" bonus.

It doesn't say what this actually means.

If it's +10% work speed, I won't bother. But if it's +10% research output for the same amount of resources input, then I think it's worth it.

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Interestingly, you don't need a working light for the room to qualify as a Laboratory. (This might be a bug!)

Researching is actually fairly complicated, as far as modifiers go. The building consumes a certain amount of dirt / second. Every 50 kg of spent dirt, a research point is generated, and once you reach the required number of research points, the research is complete.

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 0 (+0% research speed) operating a research station results in 3333 g of dirt / second.

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 3 (+120% research speed) operating a research station results in 4667 g of dirt / second (40% increase in materials/s).

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 9 (+360% research speed) operating a research station consumes 7333¹ g of dirt / second (120% increase in materials/s).

It's not clear to me why "Research Speed" and "Material consumed" is not 1 to 1, but the ratio is at least consistent.

The "lit workplace" buff purports to add 15% speed, which stacks additively with the bonus from the Science skill. Ergo:

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 0 (+0% research speed) and a lit workplace (+15% speed) operating a research station results in 3500 g of dirt / second.(+5% increase in materials/s)

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 3 (+120% research speed) and a lit workplace (+15% speed) operating a research station results in 4833.3 g of dirt / second (45% increase in materials).

  • A duplicant with a Science skill of 9 (+360% research speed) and a lit workplace (+15% speed) operating a research station consumes 7500 g of dirt / second (125% increase in materials).

The laboratory's +10% works the same way -- in other words, it's the same as increasing the Science skill of any duplicants working in the lab by .67!

Since you can trigger the laboratory bonus with an inactive light, and a duplicate (and unused) research station, there's really no reason not to try to make one.

A final note: none of these bonuses increase the efficiency at which resources are converted into research points, only the speed of the conversion. You'll always use the same amount of Dirt, Water, Radbolts, and/or Data Packs, but your better researchers are simply faster.

¹: Due to rounding, this shows in game as 7.3 kg

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It's just a speed bonus. If the labs were to have decimal outputs, you could notice either rounding or skips in the research point progress, which far as I've observed never occurs.

That said, there's still the upside of a research job requiring about 9% less calories, 9% less time, and producing 9% less heat (not accounting for the light), so there's still some resource efficiency being added indirectly.

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