Monday, June 3, 2013

Classic Science Problem: Information Hoarding

Here's a bit of wisdom on information hoarding from Seth Godin:
If your project or organization depends on knowing things that other people don't know (but could find out if they wanted to), your days are probably numbered. 
Information hoarding isn't a problem unique to travel agents or real estate agents, it's actually perfectly applicable to science too.  If your groups' competitive advantage comes solely from restricting access to data, analysis results, clinical samples, it might last for a while but eventually that advantage will erode. 

In the research gift economy, it also means that if others know of your data hoarding practices they'll likely reciprocate in turn.  What goes around comes around.

Lastly, the advantage will disappear especially quickly if the information is easily replicable, like contracting out data generation on commodity samples like human cells or tissues. Godin's penultimate paragraph notes this concisely:
Information is in a hurry to flow, and if someone comes up with a better, more direct, faster and cheaper way for information to get from one place to another, they will eliminate your reason for being.
With the advantage gone, and that remains is negative sentiment.