During the past two decades, the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has fundamentally changed our understanding of brain-behavior relationships. However, the data from any one study add only incrementally to the big picture. This fact raises important questions about the dominant practice of performing studies in isolation. To what extent are the findings from any single study reproducible? Are researchers who lack the resources to conduct a fMRI study being needlessly excluded? Is pre-existing fMRI data being used effectively to train new students in the field? Here, we will argue that greater sharing and synthesis of raw fMRI data among researchers would make the answers to all of these questions more favorable to scientific discovery than they are today and that such sharing is an important next step for advancing the field of cognitive neuroscience. © 2011 Visscher and Weissman; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.