Over the past ten years, distributed ledger technology (DLT) and its subset, blockchain, have demonstrated remarkable potential to revolutionize and enhance the finance and technology sectors.
Numerous entrepreneurs have harnessed blockchain tools, cryptocurrency, smart contracts, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to make significant improvements in the contemporary world. Following their evident progress, various other fields and initiatives slowly started to adopt these new technologies, seeking to reap their benefits. This has led to creating a wide range of directions and use cases for DLT.
One of them is the decentralized science movement, also known as DeSci.
What is Decentralized Science?
The DeSci phenomenon takes its name from the developing finance industry innovation — decentralized finance (DeFi) — that resulted in the acceleration of transformation and flourishing of the finance industry under the influence of crypto and Web3 in the last couple of years.
In contrast to traditional financial services, blockchain-based DeFi projects use crypto and smart contracts to perform various financial functions, remarkably enhancing the space. Simultaneously with DeFi, DeSci is the utilization chain advancement within the modern science system.
Decentralized Science (DeSci) envisions a fair and equitable ecosystem for funding, creating, reviewing, crediting, storing, and disseminating scientific knowledge.
Its fundamental principle is transparency, promoting a culture of open research exchange where scientists are encouraged to share their work openly, gain appropriate recognition, and foster collaboration from a worldwide community.
Traditional Science challenges
Traditional science faces numerous challenges in today's rapidly competitive research landscape.
The commercialization of science is extensive yet remains unprofitable mainly. With a limited pool of capital from government, venture capital, or institutions, funding scientific research appears as a largely untapped area, with only a handful of mechanisms in place. Delving into this reveals the complexities and challenges of financing science at any stage.
For scientists, securing funding is a critical issue, as the process is complex, slow, and bureaucratic. This often leads to scientists spending up to half their time writing grant applications, detracting from their research focus.
The current academic reward system also does not always recognize the best work. Funding success is often linked to metrics quantifying a publication's impact.
This inadequate and unpredictable funding landscape limits the volume of scientific research. It influences the choice of research topics, exacerbating issues like the replication crisis. Consequently, many potentially vital projects falter in their early stages due to funding shortfalls.
Moreover, early-career scientists face distinct disadvantages in this environment that favors older, more experienced researchers.
Peer review and research publication
In academia, the pathways for publishing scientific papers are often biased and sluggish. The peer review process is riddled with complexity and issues. Typically, academic publishers oversee these processes, relying on the voluntary, uncompensated efforts of researchers, reviewers, and editors. Furthermore, many scientific journals operate on a pay-to-publish model, requiring authors to pay for publication.
Consequently, while scientists have to pay to publish their work, peer reviewers go unrewarded for their contributions. Additionally, access to these publications is often restricted, as most online academic journals require payment. This combination of factors renders the current peer review and publication systems inefficient and exploitative. It highlights the need for a more streamlined peer review process and fair compensation for peer reviewers' time.
Intellectual property ownership
Intellectual property (IP), which includes patents, copyrights, and trademarks, refers to the legal rights that protect ideas, their expression, and the scientists who are the inventors and creators of these concepts.
Registration and management of IP is a cumbersome and archaic process, ready to fail, especially for those in the very early stages of development, like academic IP. Stuck in universities and educational institutions or unused in tech or traditional science, IP is a big problem.
Furthermore, it is hard to value.
Most IPs do not know the details and intricacies of adequately implementing registration and management requirements, usually burdening the institution's Technology Transfer Office (TTO). Moreover, TTOs are generally understaffed and underfunded. One common TTO strategy is to file provisional patents and then separately find a buyer for the IP covering registration and maintenance costs. Thus, IP is not often owned by scientists themselves.
Collaboration and communication
Scientists often struggle with limited transparency and a sense of isolation within a single organization, hindering their ability to engage in global cooperation by relying on institutional funding.
A significant hurdle in the existing scientific system is communication. Scientists frequently struggle to consistently engage with peers in their field before conducting experiments or publishing research papers. While traditional communication methods include scientific conferences, emails, and social media, these platforms have limitations. Emails lack real-time interaction, and social media focuses more on the individual than the research topic. The potential to convene small groups for regular, productive discussions on specific issues on a global scale remains an unfulfilled promise.
Reproducibility and replicability
A major challenge in science is the difficulty of reproducing and replicating results. The hallmark of quality scientific work lies in reproducible results, achievable repeatedly by the same team using identical methods. Replicable results, conversely, are those produced by a different team yet with the same experimental setup.
Testing, validating, and retesting to approximate scientific truth is often slow and arduous. However, this process is not commonly undertaken, as researchers face little motivation to engage in laborious replication work. Funding bodies support research that uncovers new findings rather than verifying existing ones. Similarly, most journals prefer publishing original and innovative research, as replication studies are seen as lacking novelty.
What are the differences between Decentralized Science and Traditional Science?
How the scientific community collaborates and shares resources highlights a critical distinction between Decentralized Science (DeSci) and traditional scientific practices.
DeSci prospers through global, dynamic collaborations, forming a network of diverse minds from various parts of the world. In contrast, traditional science often faces challenges in collaboration, limited by geographical and institutional barriers.
The exchange of ideas is a critical measure of scientific progress. In this area, DeSci stands out for its openness and transparency. Utilizing Web3 technologies, DeSci enables a more efficient and transparent sharing of laboratory services and resources, broadening the scope of scientific collaboration beyond local boundaries to a worldwide network of intellectual exchange.
In traditional science, however, resource sharing tends to be slower and less transparent. Laboratories often operate in isolation, and bureaucratic constraints hinder the process of resource sharing.
This difference is stark: DeSci's adoption of decentralization fosters an agile and open ecosystem for sharing, while traditional science grapples with the inefficiencies of its long-established systems.
How will DeSci Improve Science?
DeSci addresses the fundamental issues in conventional scientific methods, positioning itself as a force for beneficial change. It adopts a democratic approach to fund distribution, using transparent methods like quadratic donations and DAOs. It contrasts sharply with the centralized control typical in traditional scientific funding.
DeSci also revolutionizes collaboration. It replaces traditional limitations with global, dynamic teams, creating an environment ripe for diverse thoughts and groundbreaking ideas. This model moves from a few individuals controlling funding to a collective and transparent approach in guiding scientific exploration.
At its core, DeSci is committed to transparency and accessibility. It leverages Web3 tools to pave new paths for publishing, focusing on trust and universal access. This approach contrasts sharply with the often inefficient traditional science publishing routes, heralding a more inclusive and open knowledge-sharing.
Reproducibility is another crucial aspect of DeSci's impact. By offering tokens and reputation rewards for peer review, DeSci moves away from the unpaid and exploitative nature of traditional peer review, valuing the vital work of reviewers and encouraging more rigorous and reproducible scientific practices.
Why WEB3 will boost scientific research and popularity
By harnessing the democratizing capabilities of Web3, DeSci signals a transformative change in how scientific research is funded. This model transcends conventional funding frameworks, drawing on the crowd's collective intelligence and inviting contributions from individuals deeply interested in specific research areas.
DeSci utilizes decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) to enable the community to actively participate in shaping the scientific agenda. This creates a more inclusive space where various voices can advance knowledge, challenging the traditional grant-dependent system and leading the way toward a more dynamic, community-led resource distribution.
The impact of DeSci and Web3 on the scientific world is profound. From reimagining funding methodologies to overhauling publishing models and ensuring transparent intellectual property ownership, DeSci stands out as an innovator.
Its collaborative and decentralized nature, in line with Web3 principles, signifies a shift away from established norms. The integration of Web3 technologies in scientific pursuits heralds a future of greater accessibility, inclusivity, and community engagement in science.
DeSci's approach marks a significant step towards a decentralized and democratized scientific ecosystem, opening up new opportunities for researchers, contributors, and enthusiasts worldwide.