Today 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.