Blockchain-Based Scientific Ecosystem (dExperiment is coming). General overview
Blockchain-Based Scientific Ecosystem (dExperiment is coming). General overview

By alexbiojs | Scientific | 6 Jan 2020


(cover image source (Scientific Coin video on YouTube))

In this series of posts I'm going to discuss the potential of the blockchain + science union.

I’m just an amateur scientist.

To my knowledge, there’re 4 main problems in today’s science:

1. Access to knowledge/information

a) “lost” science. Some scientific discoveries are available only in languages other than English, right? That’s what they call it “lost” science, as long as it’s not translated into English (the lingua franca of science);

b) “hidden” science. A lot of scientific discoveries aren’t available for free, but are rather locked away behind expensive paywalls;

2. Funding/Monetization

It’s not a secret that a lot of great minds/scientists suffer from lack of $ for their projects/efforts/job;

3. Publishing

It’s not a secret as well that it’s really hard for a lot of discoveries to be published in top scientific journals, partially because of inadequate peer review process.

4. Collaboration

Two heads are better than one (unless you’re Andy Dufresne), when it comes to solving problems;

(fell free to mention additional problems I’m not aware of in the comments section)

351665157-52e0abf462a90536504146b1f0b2f1888eaa0d9803cf238a3a405f32fdadc0fc.jpeg

(source - Pixabay)

All the problems aren’t separated, but rather tightly interconnected with each other.

Now, let’s discuss the aforementioned problems and possible blockchain-based (and non-blockchain-based) solutions in detail.

1. Access to knowledge/information

a) “lost” science

Shouldn’t be confused with “lost in translation”, which refers to loss of information during translation process.

While it’s extremely important to preserve the diversity of languages

To have a second language is to have a second soul

[Charlemagne]

and

there’re more than 7,110 languages spoken across the world

[How many languages are there in the world? [1]]

that diversity increases the risk that important discoveries get “lost”, unless they’re published in English.

For example, as early as the 1930s, German scientists showed a significant causal link between smoking and lung cancer, and published their research—in German (Proctor, 1999). But their findings were largely ignored until the 1960s when British and US scientists rediscovered the link, which eventually triggered public health policies and programmes to reduce smoking.

[Is there science beyond English? [2]]

Given the enormous amount of research articles produced per year (around 2 million), I believe it’s hard to expect that the global community of translators will ever be able to translate all that by hand [3]. AI/neural network-based solutions could be of a lot of help in this case (for more information on this stay turned for my upcoming posts).

Would be nice if that solution is blockchain-based one, so that we could reward translators for their work.

What’s more, all that activity could help us to preserve languages. And

we're losing about one language a week, and by some estimates, half of the world's languages will be gone in the next hundred years.

[Lera Boroditsky on Ted Talks [4]]

b) “hidden” science

Those guys who “hide” their scientific discoveries behind expensive paywalls are doing this not because they are evil/greedy in their core, but rather because they’re human beings and need access to goods/services provided by the current monetary system.

There’s a number of open access journals. To my knowledge, the largest 2 open access journals in the world currently are Frontiers and PLOS One.

Don’t know yet how they (publishers/researchers) make money with such journals. Will try to discuss it in the upcoming posts of this series.

And, of course, you probably know about Sci-Hub which

is a website that provides free access to millions of research papers and books, without regard to copyright, by bypassing publishers' paywalls in various ways

[Wikipedia]

While this helps to solve the 1st problem to some extent, this makes the 2nd problem ($) even worse, because researchers lose their potential rewards.

Will discuss 2nd and 3rd problems together, and then possible solutions.

2. Funding/Monetization

So, as it was mentioned above, services like Sci-Hub may be one of the reasons why researches lose potential income.

As far as I know, the majority of scientific researches are funded by governmental grants [5].

Is that for the betterment of society in general if it’s the government, who decides what discoveries should be done/what you will/should know in the future?

What is the basis of their decision making?

– They are interested in particle behaviour. If you're a scientist, "Why do people kill each other?", get out of that goddamn field. I don't give a shit about, whether the planets move and oscillate on the orbit while the world is going to hell. – Let’s get our priority. – We have problems now!

[Charlie Veitch interviews Jacque Fresco in London (2012)]

3. Publishing

I mentioned that peer review process is quite inadequate (to my knowledge) because of bureaucratism, because reviewers and authors don’t get fair rewards (or any at all?) for their efforts, unless they set that paywall.

All that leads to quite strange things like

many valid studies get at first rejected and are bounced around from journal to journal until they finally do get published. It happens even to the best research. Take for example this article on graphene. It was rejected twice and took at least 1 year to get published. And then, in 2010, went on to win the Nobel Prize in physics.

[Open Science can save the planet | Kamila MARKRAM | TEDxBrussels]

The article mentioned in the quote is

“Electric Field Effect in Atomically Thin Carbon Films”

What’s more, to my knowledge, it’s usually scientific researches with positive results what gets published, while the ones with negative results might be considered as non-relevant. And single scientific observations and individual insights usually are ignored as well.

 

That’s where the blockchain comes in.

351665157-eb74031a7e45e513cc4b845923ac3119b9b574ff4bf42a7b9dc5b15f5b40a814.jpeg

(source - Pixabay)


To my knowledge, Bitcoin was initially designed to solve the problems of financial system and give control over the monetary system to all people [8].

Just like that, probably, would be nice to put science in the hands of all people (including general citizens), so that it’s all people who decides what they need to know, what researches should be funded etc.

That’s where ScientificСoin project comes in.

Note that there’re some other projects dealing with funding of scientific researches, but I’ll talk mostly about ScientificСoin today.

In a nutshell, this project tries to leverage the blockchain technology to help with funding of scientific projects. It focuses mostly on the projects evaluation by combining human power (" wisdom of the crowd") with machine power.

In combination with the opinions of tens of thousands of people, even if they aren't professionally knowledgeable in the question, this algorithm will be maximally effective. The so-called " wisdom of the crowd" will help thousands of decentralized experts in assessment of commercial value of the scientific projects

[Welcome to Scientificcoin BETA platform [9]]

All parties are going to be rewarded with SNcoin.

Remarkably, the beta-version of our platform has been already launched. Today ScientificCoin platform has a collection of more than 100 promising projects in various fields of applied and basic science

[Welcome to Scientificcoin BETA platform [9]]

I made a comprehensive review about ScientificCoin in my post called

"ScientificCoin (science + blockchain) (crowdfunding, education, freelancing) review inspired by “Star Wars” (+ video-version). The most realistic “game” for everyone"

As for publishing, one of the blockchain-based projects, which tries to make the process and peer review more adequate, is EUREKA. The projects aims to reward all parties of publishing process with EUREKA token and create a scientific review and rating platform for scientific findings.

in an open science world it can change because single observations and individual insights are just as important as group studies and the traditional journal article. And open science is an opportunity to think again about how we disseminate our research outputs, and ScienceMatters is doing just that.

[ScienceMatters presents the Eureka Platform]

What’s great about the project is that it will take into account all findings (positive, negative, as well as single observations and individual insights).

What is not great is that, given the activity of EUREKA team on Telegram, seems like it’s not very active.

Anyway, there’re other projects (like Orvium) with the same goal – making peer review/publishing process transparent and decentralised.

I’ll talk about them in the next posts of this series.

Well, actually the idea of crowdfunding for scientific projects with the help of online platforms comes from such pioneering platforms in this field like Experiment and Crowd.Science. But they aren’t blockchain-based. And blockchain brings a lot of benefits into this field. The idea of crowdfunding for scientific projects itself goes back to 1858, when

Alfred Russel Wallace (recognised as the co-founder of the theory of evolution) funded his work by selling specimens he collected from his field work to fund his research, so the theory of evolution was discovered because of crowdfunding science…

[source]

Another project called Scienceroot was going to become a blockchain-based scientific ecosystem, and solve as the problem of funding, as the problem of publishing. But, unfortunately, seems quite inactive right now (its web-site us unreachable and its Telegram group is quite inactive). You can find some information about it here.

Another similar (but more active) project is DEIP – a platform governed by researches, which will be used to raise money for scientific projects.

And, finally,

4. Collaboration

As I mentioned earlier, two heads are better than one.

Different people have different skills, and this interdisciplinary collaboration on a global scale might bring fruitful results.

As far as I know, GitHub history is going back to 2008. To my understanding, we actually already have a platform for scientists to collaborate. But this platform deals mostly with CS (computer science) and serves at the same time as a great educational platform for programmers.

But what about “GitHub” for other branches of science (biology, physics, chemistry etc.)?

Turned out that there’re some already like Authorea

Authorea is the leading collaborative platform to read, write, and publish research.

[source]

 

(A quick introduction to Authorea)

Would be great if we had one day a similar one, but blockchain-based.

Aside from all that, people all over the world speak in different languages.

And, according to linguistic relativity theory and of its main contributors – Lera Boroditsky, our languages reflect reality around us and shape the way we think (which means that different language speakers think/perceive the environment differently), and

the even worse news is that right now, almost everything we know about the human mind and human brain is based on studies of usually American English-speaking undergraduates at universities. That excludes almost all humans, right? So, what we know about the human mind is actually incredibly narrow and biased, and our science has to do better.

[How language shapes the way we think | Lera Boroditsky [4]]

-> …biased

And in order to overcome those biases, people need to group together to solve the problems.

Looking at the problem from the point of view of different language speakers might increase the chances for the problem to be solved.

I’ll talk about linguistic relativity in one of the next posts.

Aside from those 4 problems, I’d like to mention that in order to become a scientist, you need some educational resources.

And, as you probably know, there’re plenty already like edX and Coursera.

Heck, there’re even some blockchain-based sort of open universities like OS.University.

is the first decentralized Education 4.0 platform.

[source]

where you will be able to be paid for studying and teaching others. This platform will solve a lot of other problems of the current education system and deserves its own post.

[Open Source University: EdTech Blockchain Platform Explainer]

To motivate children/students even more, there’re some tournaments for scientists like International Natural Sciences Tournament and even blockchain-based platforms like Matryx.

351665157-23d4b47be63611249bb03b98bfdfecd30128fd52bc97d74996e4a21c4d12dc22.jpeg

(source - Pixabay)

 

Moving forward. Towards dExperiment.

dExperiment is the name coined by me to refer to the platform which should allow people to run their scientific experiments in such a way, so that parts of research could be done in one part of the world (where there’re the most appropriate conditions (or biological samples)), while the other parts could be done in other parts. Actually, I believe some researches are done by collaboration of several universities/countries. What I want is to see a platform where the above become possible for “smaller guys” (like citizen scientists and just general people), which would be kind of combination of aforementioned platforms (Experiment, Crowd.Science etc.), possibly with sort of marketplace with equipment/samples, but powered by the blockchain technology. It’s a topic for a separate post.

 

Biomimicry

For the uninitiated, biomimicry is an approach for problem solving by using the ideas of nature.

In other words, we get nature-inspired solutions for human problems [10].

For more information you can visit Biomimicry Institute and AskNature (a free, online database of nature’s solutions to human design problems) (carefully investigate “Inspired idea”, “Collections”, “Biological strategies” tabs on the top).

Turned out that there’s a global network of communities trying to educate people about biomimicry approach and to solve existing local problems by using nature’s ideas. For example

Workshop participants ideated 30 novel ways to manage stormwater based on these lessons from nature, and the entire process was documented in a “Genius of Place Process Report.”

[source]

Would be great to see one day that all that global network gets powered by the blockchain technology allowing communities to collaborate on a global scale, study biomimicry approach and raise funds for the scientific projects helping to recover our environment from the damage done people and solve our design challenges.

 

What about Steem/Sapien ecosystem?

Is possible to build in it scientific projects like Experiment / Crowd.Science (or maybe dExperiment with scientific marketplace)?

Seems we already have some components like Fundition (crowdfunding and collaboration platform).

Well, who knows, maybe one day there will be a guy who will combine all the pieces together and create something like what has been described in this post.

 

Conclusion

So, as you saw, blockchain-based scientific ecosystem is on the rise.

Sooner or later, and I believe in the next 10 years, will see a fully functional scientific ecosystem where people from all over the world will be able to study, collaborate, raise funds, be rewarded and much more to move science forward.

Jacque Fresco said once that it is information which is closer to reality.

And, to my knowledge, it’s science that’s the most reliable source of information.

And science is the most interesting game.

Let’s hope that scientific way of thinking ultimately will become the most widespread one.

Only future will tell.

 

PS:

There’s at least one unsolved problem in all this (which leads to “lost” science issues mentioned in the post), which is –> our language. To be more precise, the diversity of our languages. That’s where TranslateMe comes in. But this “missing puzzle piece” of scientific ecosystem is a topic for the next post.

References

1. How many languages are there in the world?

2. Meneghini R, Packer AL. Is there science beyond English? Initiatives to increase the quality and visibility of non-English publications might help to break down language barriers in scientific communication. EMBO Rep. 2007;8(2):112–116. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400906

3. Open Science can save the planet

4. Lera Boroditsky on Ted Talks

5. Who pays for science?

6. Charlie Veitch interviews Jacque Fresco in London (2012)

7. Open Science can save the planet | Kamila MARKRAM | TEDxBrussels

8. Bitcoin

9. Welcome to Scientificcoin BETA platform

10. Biomimetics

All images (without the license specified)/videos are used under the doctrine known in USA as "Fair Use" (similar doctrines are used in other countries). For more information visit the US Gov website


This post initially was published on Sapien.

 

What do you think about blockchain-based projects mentioned in the post?

Feel free to share your thoughts.

 

The Truth is Born in Argument

[presumably Socrates]


alexbiojs
alexbiojs

biology, programming, linguistics


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