The National Science Foundation (NSF) reports that total federal funding for biomedical research, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has leveled off (National Science Foundation, 1995). The current emphasis on controlling federal spending makes it unlikely that this trend will be reversed in the near future. The federal investment in nondefense research and development (R&D) is projected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science to decrease by approximately 33 percent in real terms by 2002 (Lane, 1996). Universities continue to turn out new Ph.D.s in the life sciences, however, increasing the supply about 5 percent annually (and taking on about 5.5 percent more postdoctoral appointees each year). This has resulted in declining success rates for those seeking traditional investigator-initiated research grants. Such intense competition has not affected publication, but many researchers report that the intense competition has made them think twice about sharing prepublication data, tips on laboratory technique, and important reagents (purified proteins, cloned genes, mouse strains, etc.) with potential rivals (Marshall, 1990; Cohen, 1995). Anecdotes about nonresponsiveness, incomplete sharing, and even deliberate misdirection abound (Werb, in Marshall, 1990; Rensberger, 1994). Young scientists may be tempted to hoard information and materials since unlike more senior researchers, they are most often not able to demand coauthorship or continued collaboration as a quid pro quo and are thus vulnerable to being "scooped" by a more established competitor who has more personnel and funding to exploit a new resource. Senior scientists may be reluctant to permit doctoral and postdoctoral students to take materials or even data with them to an independent position.
Stiff competition for dwindling funds would seem to be an incentive for sharing, but the path to success as a scientist lies with individual accomplishments. Grants, publications, and citations are the steps on the ladder of scientific success, and even the order of the authors on a multiple-author paper can be contentious. Promotion and tenure committees often make judgments based on the number of publications authored by a particular investigator, without regard for the role played by this investigator in the overall process of science. There are few mechanisms in place actively encouraging resource sharing or reinforcing it when it appears.
Less obvious but just as important is the lack of scientific career incentives for caretakers of the common property generated by sharing. Nothing illustrates this point better than the case of Maynard Olson and his