We often hear that scientists hoard data, refusing to share information even when doing so might speed advances to patients in dire need. (We touched on it briefly in this piece and it was a major element in a recent article in The New Yorker.) It's not just about sharing results on the fly--once a project has been completed and findings published in a journal, most of us observers outside major institutions still can't get access due to expensive subscriptions. The situation is made all the more unpalatable since most biomedical research is funded by taxpayer dollars. Yet the average taxpayer has little ability to see what comes of that funding.
So do all these factors mean we have a community of selfish scientists? The simple answer is no. The more genuine answer is: It's complicated. The institutional inertia of the established scientific community strongly favors researchers who go along with the data-hoarding norms.