Scientists, share your Zika virus reagents!

FlavivirusToday I learned that a number of investigators refuse to share their samples of Zika virus with other laboratories.

There are countless stories about scientists not sharing reagents because they want to be the first to make a discovery. This behavior allows them to publish first, secure more grant funding, garner invitations to speak at meetings, and generally stroke their egos.

This sort of selfish behavior happens all the time in science, but it is particularly offensive at a time when a new virus is spreading rapidly, and we need information about its biology, pathogenesis, and epidemiology to be able to treat and prevent infections. Not sharing reagents means that advances will come more slowly, or perhaps not at all: how do you know which laboratory will make the crucial findings?

Science has enough of a public image problem already. Do we need to make it worse by not sharing materials to work on a virus that has rapidly entered the public’s eye, and about which there are so many unanswered questions?

By keeping reagents to their own laboratories, scientists are being short-sighted and narrow-minded. Will you be pleased when you need a reagent and you can’t obtain it from another source?

Dear fellow scientists: scientific research is not about you and your ego. It is about contributing to human health. Get with the program.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Luiza Mendonça

    Unfortunately, the bureaucratic processes to send clinical and viral samples to other places are immensely bigger in Brazil than in the US (actually, bureaucracy in Brazil is always bigger, no matter the comparison). Even when the sample is not going to cross borders this is can become a big issue. I’m sure that there could be some ego going on too (though I believe this is more related to “government/state protectionism” than individual ego of one researcher), but I just wanted to point that when sending samples outside, the researchers could be found guilty of breaking Brazilian laws (google “Marco Legal da Biodiversidade”, something that was supposed to be a good thing, but it’s just becoming another source of bureaucracy, another hallmark of Brazil). Since 99% of the research in Brazil is funded by the government, this can scale up and be an big issue not only for the researcher, but also for the university/institute. All this bureaucracy strangles Brazilian researchers too, in so many ways that this field would be too small to enumerate even a few of them. So this could be an opportunity to bring attention to this matter and help to press the government to reduce its bureaucracy for everyone, brazilians or not.

  • paoladibonito

    This in not new in my experience. Recently i asked to a virologist in us two plasmids of Ebola proteins he replied me that could not share them for some export control regultions inposed by the US dept of commerce for matherial sent outside US. I agree with the poster but researchers are not free to do what they want. Interational organization like WHO should help and promote quicly repository of matherials for new infect agents emerging. All the best ☺

  • I do understand export regulations (although in cases of new outbreaks such as Zika, these somehow have to be overcome). Even within the US (in my experience) investigators are not willing to share reagents. This is absurd, and has to do with egos. Most universities will let investigators share materials under a ‘Materials Transfer Agreement’ or MTA. In my experience at Columbia these are easy to get and are not an impediment to sharing.

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