The best suggestion that I can offer is power logging. APC and a number of other solutions do can do continuous logging of power draw by port on some large PDUs. Since the current draw while idle is probably constant, then you can track usage by measuring the spikes in usage. If it were a mandate, or required by a grant, I would secure the PDU plugs into the wall sockets, make wall sockets unavailable, and secure the equipment plugs into the PDUs, so you know what device is plugged into the port, and you can graph its usage (maybe MRTG or something similar). Then when they have new equipment to install in the lab, they coordinate with tech staff.
Anyway, that's how I would do it.