It always amazed me that people with supposedly legitimate research interest in malware coincidentally have seemingly no interest in developing contacts among other established members of the anti-malware community. They want open access to malware because it's too hard to get samples for their 'legitimate purposes' any other way.
By contrast, there were times in the past when I was handed malware I didn't even ask for - and I am actually singularly bad at forming/maintaining connections with people. What did I do differently? I tried to learn from people (and challenge them on occasion), rather than just learning from code.