- Why is DeSci(Decentralized Science) attracting attention?
- Difference between DeSci(Decentralized Science) and Open Science
- DeSci(Decentralized Science) Use Cases
- DeSci(Decentralized Science) Case Studies
- [Discussion] Will DeSci(Decentralized Science) spread?
DeSci (Decentralize Science) is an open, global alternative to the modern scientific system that faces many challenges. It extends the idea of open science by enabling scientists to raise funds, share experimental data, and gain insights. This article will focus on the background of DeSci's attention and the challenges that DeSci solves, with examples.
Why is DeSci(Decentralized Science) attracting attention?
DeSci recently came to prominence when a16z (Andreessen Horowitz), one of the world's largest venture capital firms, and the prestigious scientific journal Nature published an article about neuroscientist Dr. Sarah Hamburg's DeSci in February 2022.
DeSci is a hot topic because it is expected to be a movement that will solve the following three issues in the scientific field.
- Researchers' reputation is heavily dependent on academic publishers
- Researchers waste much of their time on fundraising
- Researchers do not receive any financial benefit from peer review
In order to publish and receive recognition for their work, researchers must pay to have their papers published in prestigious academic journals. In order to publish an article, it must pass peer review by several researchers called referees, who are not paid by the academic publishers. The evaluation of researchers relies heavily on an index called the Impact Factor (IF/average number of citations per year for published articles) of the journal in which the article is published. In other words, money and power are concentrated in the hands of academic publishers.
It is difficult for researchers to bring their research to fruition with only public funding, and they spend much of their time each day preparing proposal materials to obtain grants (competitive funding). Although researchers should be paid for their work through peer review, this structure is not in place. This situation, in which researchers' time is devoted largely to fundraising, is undoubtedly a major negative for the advancement of science.
DeSci seeks to utilize crypto assets and blockchain technology to solve problems 1-3.
Difference between DeSci(Decentralized Science) and Open Science
One of the movements that has arisen to break the current situation in which academic publishers seem to have a monopoly is "open science. Open Science is a movement to make scientific knowledge, a public good, more open by utilizing preprint servers that publish articles before peer review, such as arXiv , which was started in 1991.
However, since the papers published on the preprint server are not peer-reviewed by researchers, we were faced with the challenge of ensuring the quality of each and every one of them.
DeSci is attempting to build an incentive design for researchers to peer review papers by incorporating the idea of token economy, while keeping the concept of open science as the foundation. For example, using smart contracts, a mechanism can be constructed in which a token is granted when a researcher completes peer review of a paper within a certain deadline, and when not completed, the right to review the paper is transferred to another researcher. Also, by dividing a paper into several NFTs and allowing NFT purchasers to read the paper, researchers can monetize by publishing the paper.
Related Article: Possibility of NFT
DeSci(Decentralized Science) Use Cases
So far, we have explained the background of DeSci's attention and how it differs from open science, but we have not touched on specific use cases. In this section, we categorize DeSci use cases into six categories to help you visualize what part of science DeSci will revolutionize.
A New Way to Recruit Research Collaborators
Until now, the main ways to get people to collaborate on a project in the early stages of research have been to either hire contract staff or to have students help out almost for free. However, by running a project like a DAO (decentralized organization), it can be designed so that the earlier people participate in the early stages of a project, the more they will be rewarded in tokens when the project is successful. This makes it easier to gather collaborators in the early stages of the project and to secure the manpower needed for the research.
Related Article: What will the DAO democratize?
Transparent and flexible incentive structure
DeSci can establish incentives by granting tokens or NFTs for contributions to the project. If the shading of incentives can be determined by governance in the community, it is possible to build a transparent and flexible incentive design. Then, the more successful the project is, the more rewards will be given to the contributors, which will strongly motivate them to support the project and create a driving force to promote the project.
Decentralized Metadata Storage
Blockchain is a decentralized database that is tamper-resistant and has zero downtime. Therefore, by recording and publishing research and publication metadata on the blockchain, highly-authentic data management can be achieved. This will contribute to the advancement of science by making data easier to trace and allowing researchers to access and use a variety of data for their research.
Treatment of Validated Research Subjects
Most of the research in the world discloses only the data of successful experiments without revealing the data of failed experiments. However, in many cases, the data from failed experiments can provide the seeds for new discoveries. By using tokens and NFTs to create incentives to also disclose experimental data and other validated research targets, we can share our findings widely with the world and have a positive impact on the development of science as a whole.
Management of DOI(Digital Object Identifier) and researcher-specific IDs
The blockchain, as mentioned above, is a tamper-resistant decentralized database that can be used to centrally manage DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and researcher-specific IDs. This allows researchers to prove the consistency of their achievements on the blockchain, thereby preventing researcher fraud, such as misrepresentation or exaggerated reports, and creating a system that rewards researchers for their diligent research efforts.
A New Way to Fund Research
The most impactful use case for DeSci is research funding. DeSci will create a token economy where the rewards for collaborators will vary depending on their contribution to the project and the success or failure of the project. The token economy created by DeSci can provide a means to continue to raise funds for long-term research because the rewards for collaborators vary depending on their contributions to the project and the success or failure of the project.
DeSci(Decentralized Science) Case Studies
Case 1: Molecule
Molecule is a DeSci project that enables a new form of financing in the pharmaceutical area. The patient public, researchers, and investors are all part of the same community, pooling their resources and jointly owning a particular technology. To date, more than 250 projects have been funded through Molecule's protocols for a cumulative total of more than $1 billion.
There is often a huge disconnect, a valley of death, between the research level and the commercial level of manufacturing, and it is often the case that technologies are not made available to the world because they cannot be bridged. Until now, researchers have funded their research by applying for public funding, holding patents, forming companies, and raising funds from investors to make equity.
In this way, the key players in the ecosystem change with each phase, creating a variety of complicated procedures and wasting time and effort for the researcher. However, Molecule's system allows fundraising to be completed within a single community, which not only eliminates this hassle, but also allows early participants to receive greater rewards. Thus, even in the development of a long and costly drug, it becomes easier to create a system in which talented people can cooperate from the very beginning.
Case2: Decentralized Science
We have previously mentioned that there are challenges in peer review of papers, and the DeSci project called Decentralized Science offers a solution to this by putting it on the token economy. Specifically, it uses smart contracts to enable peer-to-peer collaboration among researchers, bypassing academic publishers.
Decentralized Science allows researchers' peer review data to be stored on the blockchain and scored to create a gradient in the quality assurance of papers. In other words, a dynamic system can be constructed in which researchers who properly conduct peer review are rewarded with a large amount of money, while those who do not are not offered peer review in the first place. In other words, a digital scalpel can be inserted into the traditional, personalized peer review system.
[Discussion] Will DeSci(Decentralized Science) spread?
For DeSci to democratize the world of science, it is necessary to break the current dependence of researchers' evaluation on the schemes of academic publishers. To achieve this, it is necessary to establish an evaluation system that does not depend on the Impact Factor by utilizing tokens based on blockchain technology. Naturally, it is difficult for changes to occur rapidly because academic publishers have their own interests, but we can expect disruption to occur sooner or later as the DeSci movement gains momentum. If this happens, the way researchers work will become more fluid, and many independent researchers (freelancers) who are not affiliated with research institutions will be born.