How blockchain can help scientists (Include interview)

Many scientific areas get bogged down with bureaucracy, such as attracting research funding; or they are not rewarded, as in the case of the peer review process or academic journals that charge high commissions for publication.

To find out more, Digital Journal spoke with Artyom Ruseckiy, DEIP's Chief Operating Officer, who is a research platform with a digital economy for science.

Digital diary: how would you define blockchain?

Artyom Ruseckiy: Blockchain is a decentralized digital book of transactions that does not need a central authority.

Transactions inside blockchain are not necessarily money transfers – it can be any value. For example, within DEIP a transaction is a write operation, which adds new information to the platform, for example, publication of searches, publication of peer review, etc.

The most important feature of blockchain-based systems is decentralization. Almost all the services that surround us today – banks, social networks, search engines – are owned by a central body that controls your data and establishes the rules of the game. Banks apply rates for their services, social networks sell advertisements. When we use these services, we must share our information and imply that we trust those who will keep it. In contrast, blockchains are designed to be decentralized, the data within them can be stored simultaneously on thousands of computers all over the world, allowing nobody in particular to own it. What does it offer to end users? It allows them to interact as peers, without relying on third parties and trust.

A more important feature can be implemented in the blockchain is immutability – once a piece of data has entered blockchain, it can not be deleted and will be stored securely there.

DJ: does the blockchain always require a cryptocurrency?

Ruseckiy: In reality it is vice versa – cryptocurrencies require blockchain and are built using this technology, like some mobile apps created with Android or iOS.

The reason that blockchain seems to require cryptocurrency is as follows: app founders or blockchain platforms often look for ways to incentivize and reward people for using it. So they invent a token, or cryptocurrency, with the same name – for example, inside the DEIP blockchain we have the DEIP token. Its role is that of liquid currency: the more members (scientists) contribute to science on the platform, the more DEIP tokens earn. Later they can be exchanged for fiat money.

DJ: which sectors have adopted blockchain?

Ruseckiy: Although the application of the blockchain is growing in many sectors (government, health, insurance, media, games, etc.), those that can boast the strongest use cases are the banking and financial sector. It's natural, because even the first blockchain, Bitcoin, is a financial project: a payment network for secure peer-to-peer transactions without trust.

The advantages of blockchain for the banking and financial sector are evident: low operating costs, security in data storage and transmission, lower risk of fraud and errors, and transparency. $ 20 billion – that's how the banking industry around the world will save by 2022 through the implementation of blockchain, says Accenture's advice.

DJ: Why was the scientific sector slow to consider blockchain?

Ruseckiy: Science is not simply the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the blockchain. Unlike banks and finance, which are all financial transactions and therefore obvious to benefit from the adoption of the blockchain, science is different and more complex. In addition to financial transactions – subsidies from funding agencies, there are also transfers of another type of value – knowledge produced as a result of the research. How blockchain can optimize these processes (and if it should) requires more effort and expertise to see.

Furthermore, science is regulated by the government, which makes it less mobile and slower to adopt. While some governments such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Estonia, Switzerland, Georgia and Gibraltar use blockchain to improve public services, many are still skeptical and resistant. This is natural, since the technology is new and so far has not shown many cases of adoption.

Finally, there are still negative connotations around the blockchain connected with cryptocurrencies, price fluctuations and illicit trade in the obscure web.

DJ: How does blockchain help you buy scientific equipment?

Ruseckiy: In reality, there is no universal answer – all blockchains are different and provide different solutions. On DEIP, blockchain helps in several ways.

Firstly, scientists can earn internal currency that can be used to buy things.

Each document published on DEIP is peer reviewed and evaluated by scientists – members of DEIP. Following their evaluation, a document is rewarded with internal currency of the platform; the greater the evaluation by the scientific community, the greater the currency it earns. Exchanged with real money, it can be used later to purchase scientific material, to pay rent, etc.

What does this system signal to scientists? The more and more research quality they produce and share, the greater the financial sustainability that will give them to produce even more research results. So we hope that in the long run DEIP will stimulate the evolution of science.

Secondly, the blockchain facilitates interaction between scientists and donors and allows the former to enjoy greater funding opportunities. This point is more traditional: it is a matter of traditional subsidies of funding agencies. However, through the DEIP blockchain, their distribution can be optimized and automated. It allows lenders to distribute grants easier and on a larger scale, and scientists – to ask for more and wait less for their proposals to be accepted.

DJ: can the blockchain change scientific publishing?

Ruseckiy: Yes. Firstly, DEIP allows scientists to publish immediately – all documents are open to the public once they are sent to the platform. The documents are reviewed by other members of DEIP, scientists of the corresponding disciplines, who are encouraged to do so after publication. Today it takes a long time, which slows down the sharing of results and interferes with job applications, granting and holding a researcher.

Secondly, DEIP offers publishers a brand new monetization model, which allows them to become fully open access (now only about 25% of research knowledge is such) and to discontinue commission fees – both by researchers , both from their institutions. This model can be easily adopted by existing and reliable magazines.

DJ: how does the DEIP platform work?

Ruseckiy: The cards highly evaluated by the scientific community are rewarded in the internal currency. A newspaper can ask a part of the prize for a sheet to publish it. Therefore, a magazine is interested in selecting the best articles seen by the same scientists – regardless of whether the results are negative or that its author is a career researcher etc. – because the main thing that influences the amount of a diary ultimately depends on how the paper is evaluated by the scientists.

All the peer reviews of a given document influence the ECI – Expertise Contribution Index, the main qualitative characteristics of the scientific contribution on the platform.

And now imagine: usually, to make a decision on the distribution of a grant, a lender must evaluate all the projects that required it – for this it brings together a group of scientists, which should be carefully selected to avoid conflicts of interest; the whole procedure can last weeks and months. With DEIP, a lender can use the result of open peer review and ECI. For grant donors, it can greatly simplify and increase the efficiency of money distribution.

Another thing about how blockchain can make the grant system more efficient is the smart contract. This is the algorithm that automates the operations on the platform. Suppose that a lender wants to distribute a scholarship to researchers at the beginning of their career in quantum optics from countries A, B and C – this request is included in a smart contract that will automatically and transparently distribute a grant between these participants in the platform.

All these things – ECIs and smart contracts – allow concession agencies to work more efficiently and save huge costs on grant administration. According to our estimates, 30-45% of subsidies are spent each year on their administration – with the help of DEIP this sum could be spent on grants instead.

DJ: which blockchain developers are the most interesting?

Ruseckiy: Of course, Bitcoin – it's the first blockchain, I highly recommend reading his white paper. Then there is Ethereum – he was the first to introduce the notion of smart contract. Moreover, graphene – is one of the most advanced blockchain technologies today, ie fats, requires little computing power and allows free transactions. DEIP is built using this technology. Bitshares, Steemit and EOS – are all made of graphene and are also interesting.

DJ: How does blockchain collaboration help scientific researchers in different structures?

Ruseckiy: Blockchain facilitates collaboration between scientists from different parts of the world. Tell me, you are doing research and looking for a researcher with a very rare experience. In DEIP you can find a person, see their experience, background, research projects in which they participated, their roles and their contribution. What Blockchain does is ensure that all this information is reliable, as it is taken care of by the scientific community, so you can invite the researcher whose project you need to join your group.

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