DeSci: what if science switched to blockchain to gain efficiency? – WE TOMORROW

This is called the DeSci, the Decentralized Science or decentralized science. This movement, still emerging, is of interest to a growing number of scientists. Thanks to the blockchain, the system of “smart contracts” and tokens (digital tokens), these are brand new methods of collaborative work that are emerging. In short, Web3 could greatly facilitate scientific research.

According to cognitive neuroscientist Sarah Hamburg, DeSci sits at the crossroads of two major trends. On the one hand, there is a desire on the part of the scientific community to changing the way research is funded and knowledge is shared. On the other hand, we observe a fundamental movement for move ownership and value away from industry intermediaries. A movement that relies in particular on cryptography and the blockchain.

Facilitate financing, shared and secure storage of data, etc.

This British scientist co-founded a start-up, Phas3.io, which developed a unique solution named Lynx. This uses the blockchain to allow owners of wearables (clothes or connected accessories) to retain full ownership and control of their biometric data (including brain data). In the famous journal Natureshe published in December 2021 a appeal to scientists to join the DeSci.

According to Sarah Hamburg, this is the best way to democratize science. And ensure that research is no longer done in silos. Neither finds itself blocked by bottlenecks in one way or another (lack of means, human resources, etc.). By going through the blockchain, we can set up:

  • from efficient peer-to-peer data exchange and storage.
  • from validation process for publications of scientific articles facilitated by the use of tokens.
  • news research funding methods facilitated by cryptocurrencies.

Blockchain tools used by DeSci

In an article published on the site of the American investment fund a16z (initiated by Andreessen Horowitz), Sarah Hamburg details the tools available. Here is a selection:

The Smart Contracts or self-executing contracts

The neuroscientist points to the fact that her counterparts spend a lot of time analyzing and validating the publications of their peers. And, ultimately, it is the scientific publications that derive all the profits. To circumvent the academic publishing industry, a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) named Ants Review was created. Its operation is based on smart contracts (or “self-executing contracts”). These are stand-alone programs, built on the Ethereum blockchain, that run automatically when predefined conditions are met. These could soon serve as mediate directly between authors and peer reviewerswho would be rewarded with tokens for their work.

DeSci communities incentivized

Digital tokens (tokens) and NFTs (Non Fungible Tokens) could be used to incentivize scientific communities to share, review and organize different types of information. These exchanges would notably take place via secure exchange formats (‘intelligent manuscripts’ that link open source data and protocols). It could facilitate preprints (manuscripts published before peer review). These are essential for accelerating scientific research, as we have seen during the COVID pandemic.

The permaweb to fight censorship

To avoid political interference in scientific research, the solution could be the permaweb. This is a “Immutable, decentralized web that puts power back in the hands of the masses“. In concrete terms, it is a blockchain-secured space where users – in this case scientists – can store their data and information permanently. These are accessible from anyone, at any time and only by persons who have received authorization.

Blockchain financing

Various scientific DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations) are exploring the multiple possibilities offered by blockchain to revolutionize research funding methods. Sarah Hamburg cites as an example:

  • Adaptation of public funding models such as Quadratic Funding and Retroactive funding. To achieve this, they create platforms and protocols dedicated to science.
  • The use of DeFi protocols (decentralized finance or decentralized finance). They make it possible to establish sustainable and long-term funding for scientists.
  • Profits from the commercialization of scientific discoveries. But not just anyhow: for example by putting up for sale pictures in NFT. The sale of a DNA sequencing or a new molecule could help finance new research.

DeSci: real potential but rules to be put in place

While this DeSci movement is still in its infancy, the potential is clear. But this can only be done under certain conditions. Like a certain sector regulation (to avoid abuse in terms of commercialization of scientific discoveries). It will also be necessary to ensure compliance with ethical rules or find out how guarantee scientific quality. At last, the community will also have to agree on the themes to be prioritized in this DeSci. At the risk of scattering over too many projects.

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DeSci: what if science switched to blockchain to gain efficiency? – WE TOMORROW


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