Decoding Decentralized Science
To fully conceptualize Molecule’s mission and vision, one needs to understand the arena in which we operate. Decentralized Science (DeSci) is a new approach to science that applies principles from Meta- and Open-Science and is a powerful new non-crypto application of blockchain technology. More than just a blend of Meta-Science and Open-Science, DeSci represents their next evolution. It uses web3 technology to establish a secure, lasting record of scientific contributions that enables fair credit allocation, simplifies transactions, allows worldwide resource sharing, and overcomes economic barriers. We believe, emphatically, that it is the answer to many of the problems that are plaguing the academic community today.
Open-Science as the forefather
Throughout recent history, scientific productivity has been decreasing steadily, largely due to information being increasingly sequestered in institutional silos. Recognizing these issues, researchers began to speak out, asking for more transparent communication between academics. As a result, the transformative movement of Open-Science (OpSci) was born, aiming to foster transparency, collaboration, and democracy within the scientific process. It is perhaps the most well-known and mature effort to update the scientific system and community over the past decades.
OpSci encourages interaction between various stakeholders, including researchers, funders, publishers, and policymakers. It birthed the notable ‘citizen science’ movement; allowing normal people who care about scientific progress to contribute to research, capitalizing on the power of numbers to bolster data collection. This shift underscores the principle that science should be accessible regardless of socioeconomic status. However, OpSci encounters challenges such as a lack of incentivization for active participation, complications in data and code sharing, concerns about plagiarism of preprints, obstacles in resource accessibility, and instances of misrepresentation in media. Despite its noble objectives, these issues represent hurdles that OpSci still needs to overcome in order to fully revolutionize scientific practices.
Meta-Science as a critical analysis
Meta-Science, the exploration of science itself, analyzes the core processes of collaboration, experimentation, observation, and knowledge dissemination. While OpSci focuses on breaking down walls within science, Meta-Science aims to analyze the entire scientific ecosystem. By taking a holistic view, Meta-Science identifies the causes behind issues such as the reproducibility crisis and bias, to ultimately enhance research quality. Meta-Science also aims to look at which social processes can spark a move towards better science - while most researchers can fully conceptualize the issues that plague traditional science, there seems to be little impetus at an institutional level to improve various processes. This study of science itself gives a bird's eye view over the academic landscape, identifying classic blockers and bottlenecks, however, the movement tends to be more observational than actionable. Integrating and implementing solutions remains crucial.
Decentralized Science as applied Meta-Science and Open-Science, and more…
DeSci has arisen as Meta-Science and Open-Science’s natural heir; conserving their core attributes but improving upon their issues. It promises to break down barriers, offering a more inclusive and equitable platform for scientific discovery and collaboration. It does so by taking advantage of the technology available - without this, DeSci would never have been able to blossom as it has. It has matured into a fully-fledged unique cause with devoted contributors, drawing in an amazing array of expertise, all aligned with the common goal of improving science and ultimately, the world.
The movement has anchored itself to a couple of core values:
These values are not an exhaustive list, but a sample to aid in understanding the movement. We’ve included a comprehensive reading list at the end of this article for further research.
DeSci promotes open collaboration between scientists across the world, while simultaneously creating an incentive structure through token rewards and governance. This reward system ensures motivation, which was a prevalent issue within the OpSci movement. Central to the movement is the belief that researchers should be valued for their contributions - after all, they are the champions who work relentlessly to improve and understand the world around us.
By leveraging blockchain, DeSci also ensures traceability, fair crediting, and secure transactions. An immutable record of contributions protects researchers’ work while fostering an ethos of transparency. Valuable educational resources should not be held in ivory towers and suffocated behind paywalls. Science is for the people and thus should be accessible to the people.
Alternative funding models
DeSci offers innovative funding models. While Meta-Science could identify bottlenecks such as inefficient grant systems, feasible solutions were hard to come across. This is because Meta-Science is still working within the realms of traditional science. DeSci has subtle architectural differences; it creates new models that are complementary to traditional structures but not bound by them. An example of this are biotechnology Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), which are collectives of people committed to funding and pursuing innovative academic research. Well-known examples include VitaDAO, AthenaDAO, HairDAO, and ValleyDAO.
Democratizing access to tools enhances efficiency and inclusivity, enabling an accelerated pace of discoveries. These advancements enable ‘networked science’, a phrase that refers to the ability of one researcher to source knowledge immediately from another researcher across the world. The benefit of having the world’s knowledge at your fingertips means the discovery process can be exponentially streamlined.
As the world changes and technological developments accrue, we’d be foolish to not leap upon the advantages technology can provide. Apps, software, and protocols that exist to automate processes are welcomed, allowing humans to spend more time working on the hard things. Examples vary from funding technologies, lab work tracking, and DAO governance structures. These technologies are built to be ‘trustless’ meaning that they are created to exclude bias or tampering. Human error and politics are largely eliminated with transparent, immutable records.
Core to the movement is a revolutionary spirit; we sit at the precipice of something important that has the potential to mitigate human suffering, and that will take passion and action to manifest. As a community we are embracing the creation of a new paradigm.
Molecule’s role in DeSci
In a nutshell, Molecule is a protocol, marketplace and service provider to the DeSci community. We exist to support, empower, guide, and provide. As a team, we host a yearly DeSci conference (DeSci.Berlin) and run a biotechnology DAO accelerator named bio.xyz. However, we are most well-known for our products; Intellectual Property Non-Fungible Tokens (IP-NFTs) and Intellectual Property Tokens (IPTs).
Intellectual Property Non-Fungible Tokens (IP-NFTs) are onchain intellectual property (IP) contracts. IP-NFTs register IP rights onchain. By unifying data and property rights into programmable, transactable, blockchain tokens in the internet of money, IP-NFTs represent an evolutionary step in the development and management of scientific research IP. To date, IP-NFTs have been used to register IP of more than $2M in scientific research including at many world-renowned universities.
IP tokens (IPTs) are onchain memberships in IP-NFTs. When IP-NFT holders mint IPTs, they create tokenized IP commons managed by their members, accelerating the progress of science through incentives to coordinate. IPTs enable IP governance, not ownership along with milestone-based fundraising for scientific research. By minting IPTs, IP-NFT holders can incentivize contributors to IP development and enable their IP to be priced by free markets.
DeSci in action: Longevity, Dr. Korolchuk & VITA-FAST
Dr. Viktor Korolchuk knew very little about web3 when he first came across VitaDAO. In dire need of funding though, as most academics are, he decided to take a chance and proposed his project; identifying novel autophagy activators that could potentially slow cellular decline and work to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Within six weeks Dr. Korolchuk’s project was vetted and approved, granting him $285,000 to perform his research.
The Korolchuk IP-NFT went on to become the first project tokenized in an IPT sale, representing a massive step forward in the decentralization of science. The sale was over 1700% oversubscribed, once again showing a clear community appetite for this sort of thing. The IPTs, known as VITA-FAST, were distributed to all those who contributed to the sale, along with Dr. Korolchuk, the University of Newcastle, and deal-flow contributors, demonstrating the democratization of science in real time. Now, VITA-FAST token holders are able to vote upon project developments, such as which assays to perform, which labs to engage with, and how IP licensing may occur.
Dr. Korolchuk and the team have recently completed a tertiary screen with compounds that have been selected for their ability to induce autophagy in the two previous screens. After finding several very promising compound families, the team is now investigating which chemical series should be explored further in search of patentable and optimized lead compounds.
Decentralized science depends on community, and we’d love to have you.
By addressing OpSci and Meta-Sciences's shortcomings, DeSci presents a refined, democratic, and secure framework for scientific exploration, making research more accessible and incentivized. Let's build and advance decentralized science together, leveraging the power of community to create a better world for you and your loved ones.
Curious and want to know more? Here are some of our favorite reading materials:
The state of academia
- Academia Constraints by Ben Reinhardt
- 1,500 scientists lift the lid on reproducibility | Nature
- Reproducibility trial: 246 biologists get different results from same data sets
- Is science really facing a reproducibility crisis, and do we need it to? | PNAS
- Open Science and DeSci: same goal, different means
- Decentralized science (DeSci) | ethereum.org
- DeSci: The case for Decentralised Science | Gitcoin Blog
- Will crypto really solve science's biggest problems? - Forbes by John Cumbers
- Decentralized Science and Biotech - Vincent Weisser
- What Is Decentralized Science? PixelPlex’s Detailed Guide
- Decentralized science is key to fixing academic research
- Reinventing discovery by Michael Nielsen
- Open Science Knowledge Base
- Doing science online | Michael Nielsen
- The Future of Science | Michael Nielsen
- Open Access: a short summary | Michael Nielsen
- The economics of scientific collaboration | Michael Nielsen
- Open Science Resources by ChanZuckerberg Foundation