Saving fisheries to thoughts on saving science

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R Bishop
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Saving fisheries to thoughts on saving science

http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/guest-column-fish-shares-and-sharing-fish/?th&emc=th
I just read this article in the ny times.  I highly recommend it.  It explains how the world can move toward a more substanible ocean catch and shows how the tragedy of commons has destroyed our ocean catch reserves.
This got me thinking about how the Tragedy of Commons is affecting the life sciences.  All I hear about these days is how hard it is to publish and get funding for research. This seems to be function of the "I gotta get mine" mentality that defines the Tragedy of Commons.
That life scientists would deliberately sabotage or slow publication someone else's research in order to get more funding and publications for themselves is embarassing to all of us. The question is what are we going to do about it?
Rb
 

R Bishop
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Sorry to reply to myself. But

Sorry to reply to myself. But I just re-read the Tragedy of Commons Article and its explained it so nicely that I thought Id share it with you all.
"The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.
As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.
1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly + 1.
2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision­making herdsman is only a fraction of - 1.
Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit -- in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all."
Every PI is compelled to seek more funding, reject more papers, and take on more graduate students.  Funny how we continually repeat the mistakes of the past.  Scientists we are better than this.
 
"The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin, Science, 162(1968):1243-1248.