The realms of academia and science are currently grappling with a crisis, characterised by numerous inefficiencies that hinder both scientific aptitude and research potential. Discussions about stagnation within universities and academic institutions are often considered off-limits, leaving little room for critical thinkers who question the status quo or the calibre of scientific research.
Decentralised science (DeSci) seeks to revolutionise these systems with good reason. By combining science with blockchain technology, there is an opportunity to transform existing funding models and foster increased collaboration among stakeholders involved in scientific pursuits.
Untangling the current issues
One of the most pressing issues in academia is the "publish or perish" mentality, which pressures researchers to publish their work frequently in order to maintain their professional standing and secure funding. This has led to a focus on quantity over quality. This results in a deluge of subpar studies that add little value to the scientific community and hinder knowledge advancement.
The subpar research produced from this "publish or perish" mentality creates further issues down the line. For example, reproducibility is crucial in the scientific process — however, many studies face irreproducibility due to publication bias, lack of transparency, and the pressure to produce groundbreaking results. In a survey carried out by Nature in 2016, 70% of researchers reported that they have attempted, but were unsuccessful, in replicating the experiments conducted by their peers. This undermines the credibility of scientific research and hampers progress in understanding complex phenomena.
Finally, traditional academic publishing is heavily influenced by profit-driven motives, with paywalled journal publishers charging exorbitant fees for accessing research articles. This model perpetrated by profiteering middlemen limits the dissemination of scientific knowledge and potentially compromises research quality, as revenue-generating articles may be prioritised over those with genuine scientific merit.
How DeSci changes things
Decentralised science aims to revolutionise academia and scientific research by leveraging blockchain technology to address the current crisis characterised by numerous inefficiencies, such as the "publish or perish" mentality and profit-driven academic publishing.
Blockchain technology can provide solutions through tokenomics, incentivising researchers for their contributions, decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) that enable alternative funding models, and transparent records of intellectual property rights.
By embracing these innovations, DeSci can disrupt the current paradigm, making scientific knowledge more accessible and promoting a diverse range of discoveries and innovations.
With traditional research methods, the methodologies, data, and conclusions of scientific studies are often obscured. Decentralised science combats this issue by providing enhanced transparency and open access throughout the research process.
When researchers can fully understand the work of their peers, they can more effectively build upon and critique that work, ultimately leading to more robust and reliable scientific discoveries. This democratisation of knowledge encourages global collaboration, deters low-effort work stemming from a "publish or perish" mentality, and accelerates the pace of scientific discovery.
Similarly, peer review serves as a foundational element of academic research; but traditionally it's slow and opaque. DeSci aspires to improve peer review by making it more transparent and collaborative. By making use of decentralised tools and platforms, researchers can more effectively offer insightful feedback and participate in meaningful conversations, ultimately leading to superior research outcomes.
Pursuit of knowledge over profit
There is an absence of inherent economic incentives in DeSci, which presents a unique advantage: the primary focus shifts from monetary gain to the pursuit of knowledge and collaboration. Traditional scientific ventures are often driven by profit and greed, as publishers hide government-funded research behind paywalls and impose steep subscription fees for access. This also leads to competition and secrecy, with researchers withholding data and findings to maintain a competitive edge.
Decentralised science, however, cultivates a culture of open collaboration and data sharing, as researchers are not bound by the need to maximise financial gains. Instead, key decentralised tools and entities, such as DAOs, quadratic funding, and crowdsourcing, offer alternative positive funding methods to support scientists. For example, by publicly sharing scientific discoveries through a scalable tokenomics system, DeSci can eradicate profiteering middlemen like publishers.
This also paves the way for groundbreaking research that might otherwise be overlooked due to its limited commercial appeal. Traditional profit-driven scientific ventures tend to prioritise research with high monetary returns, which can result in the neglect of essential yet less lucrative areas of study. In contrast, the decentralised science model encourages researchers to pursue diverse scientific endeavours without the constraints of financial objectives, ultimately fostering a broader range of discoveries and innovations.
Decentralised science can reinforce the original purpose of research — to advance knowledge for the good of society — rather than prioritising financial gain.
By tackling the current drawbacks of traditional research methods, DeSci lays the groundwork for a more transparent, collaborative, and efficient research ecosystem. With luck, we can anticipate a future where scientific knowledge is increasingly accessible, and our understanding of the world continues to grow at an unprecedented pace.
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