be attached to a commodity that is essentially valueless? As discussed above, the data notebooks of a researcher may be kept by him/her upon departure from a lab; in other laboratories, they are kept as property of the laboratory and placed in a common archive. In a molecular biology laboratory, these archival databooks may on very rare occasion be perused to determine the origin and derivation of a reagent in current use (e.g., a gene clone).
Because of all this, it seems clear that any convention that may eventually be promulgated in order to impose standardized data ownership and/or storage practices will not arise because of operational requirements of the research itself, but because of extra-scientific considerations such as the need to make all research programs easily accessible to those interested in auditing them, or to document patent claims that may derive from such research.
The long-term trends governing these practices are undoubtedly moving toward increased distribution of reagents and certain classes of results. It is still unclear to what extent these standards will be widely imposed by journals and/or granting agencies. Within limits, these changes will have a salutary effect on the progress of science as a whole. Care must be taken, however, to avoid extreme and rigid rules that will work inadvertently to reduce the motivations of individual researchers to carry out certain types of research or to hamper their flexibility to strike up advantageous collaborations with peers to whom they have given special access to unique reagents. In a larger sense, one must be careful not to hobble a research enterprise that over the past two decades has proven among the most productive, creative, and cost-effective in the history of science.