Abstract This paper investigates the way in which certain institutions governing the common resources shared by academics and others are affected by the increase in communication facilities, disciplinary transgression and the value of knowledge. By taking its point of departure from concepts such as ‘tragedy of the commons’ and social dilemmas, the paper argues that institutions which have traditionally governed the so called ‘academic commons’ are now challenged by a number of factors pertinent to the evolution of knowledge society. As a result the governance principles for the academic commons must be further explicated and revised in the light of the new situation. A case in point from a recent on-line initiative by the US National Institute of Health (NIF) is presented to illustrate how such institutions can be built. Finally, a number of governance strategies are presented for an increasingly wired “virtual academic commons”.