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What is DeSci and What to Expect from This New Phenomenon?

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Алёна Инжеева
Редактор эксклюзивных материалов на сайте blockchain24.pro
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Science is the basis of knowledge and progress. As a basic public good, science must be reliable, transparent and accessible to all. Web3 technologies offer great opportunities for the development of this direction, so the movement of decentralized science (DeSci) has appeared. Technological innovations have significantly improved our ability to produce, test, preserve and disseminate knowledge. Examples include the invention of the printing press in the 15th century, which first made widespread dissemination of knowledge possible, and the invention of the Internet in the 20th century, which drastically reduced transaction costs in the exchange of information.

The latest wave of innovation in this line is directly related to the use of Web3 technology. This technological breakthrough can also be used in the scientific field to create better, more open, verifiable and secure scientific data.

Is DeSci hype or genuine science?

To begin with, it is worth understanding in more detail what DeSci is. Decentralized Science (DeSci) is a movement that recognizes scientific knowledge as a public good and aims to create an infrastructure to fund, create, store and disseminate scientific knowledge in a fair and equitable manner using Web3 technology. It uses tools such as blockchain, DAO, NFT and smart contracts to solve actual problems in the research and publication process.

At present, the results of various studies are a highly underutilized resource. Decentralization of fundamental processes in the field of science can unlock the potential of the world's intelligence. Freed from narratives, vested interests and restrictive cultural practices, science can return to its founding principles: intellectual and practical pursuit of truth about the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.‌

Blockchain technology is the fastest growing and most innovative technology in the world, and therefore it is used to solve the problems that arose in science. The DeSci sphere was thus born. To understand the issue in more detail, we asked experts how they feel about this new scientific direction and if they think DeSci is another crypto hype, a commercial project or really something worthwhile, and if science can bring something new and useful to the crypto industry.

Marat Mynbaev, CEO of Amir Wallet, highlights how the dissemination of scientific research has long been severely limited by inefficient mediation that has created a prestige-based subculture, in which publishers have managed to take a central role. Much of this culture is based on influencing the access to research funds and the reputation system that often determines the career of researchers or the prestige of the institutions in which they work. Yet the access to scientific publications is limited only to those people who can afford to pay for expensive subscriptions to scientific research publications.

Movements such as Open Science, which promote open access to publications, have lead to the situation that many journals now require significant payments from authors and the institutions they work for if they want their work to remain accessible (for example, over $11,000 in the case of the Nature journal).

DeSci is a scientific data application based on Web 3 decentralization principles that uses tools such as blockchain, DAO, NFT and smart contracts to solve problems. This movement enables greater participation of researchers in solving scientific problems, a simplified system of funding and democratizes the peer review process, in which often journals with high publication costs take leading positions. Simply put, decentralized science enables more researchers and scientists to access various projects and contribute to them. 

Vladimir Gorgadze, Head of the Blockchain Master’s Program at MIPT, Co-Founder of the Atomyze tokenization platform and Newity IT company, says‌,

“I think it's too early to draw conclusions. I am cautiously optimistic about the DeSci phenomenon. I myself am an adherent of decentralization and have devoted most of my life to science both in IT and business (now) and in physics (I was engaged in theoretical plasma and condensed matter physics at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, Lebedev Physical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of California, Berkeley). Decentralized technologies in combination with VR/AR technologies are a really powerful tool for creating scientific metacommunities (the metaverse of science), bringing together professionals from anywhere in the world, but we are still at the very beginning of the journey.”

Dmitry Kudinov, Operations Manager of EMCD, the largest mining pool in Eastern Europe, a specialist in mining digital assets, notes that blockchain and the principle of decentralization are being actively implemented in a variety of areas in the wake of the popularity of cryptocurrencies. This is how the full-fledged GameFi industry already appeared, and DeSci was born.

According to the expert, the decentralized science movement has very ambitious plans and tasks, but so far, this approach has not had any serious results or achievements. Many crypto enthusiasts only discuss the prospects of DeSci. If some specific projects in DeSci do not appear in the near future, which solve some urgent problems, the sector is unlikely to develop as actively as cryptocurrencies.

Dmitry Prikhodko, head of the Blockchain Academy community, notes that DeSci or decentralized science is a movement of young civilian scientists who want to do scientific research with open access for any person to their results like Open Source for programmers, as well as fund projects with cryptocurrency . Such an approach radically changes the rules of the game in such a conservative field as fundamental science.

The expert adds,

“I am sure that these guys have a future, because modern society is already tired of the oppression of mega corporations and wants breakthrough technologies to be financed not only on the basis of if it is profitable for investors. . . . Once upon a time, when developing the first cryptographic algorithms, scientists did not even imagine that this would eventually lead to the formation of the sphere of digital financial assets. . . . The circle is closed. Those principles and laws that were laid down at the origins of the formation of blockchain technologies will now help to develop science further. . . . In my opinion, this may work out.”

Yuri Gusev, Founder and COO of Zam.io, had positive comments about DeSci,

“In fact, this is a great sphere, which, I am sure, will gain wide popularity in the market. I myself have invested in a similar project, Answers, which creates copies of documents about all the major events in the world's history. They also have their own token, and the project itself is socially important and necessary. Definitely, such projects will develop. I am sure that soon we will see a number of such scientific companies in the market. Also, patents with NFT for scientists will definitely be created.”

Dmitry Noskov, an expert at the StormGain crypto exchange, emphasizes that the high-tech sphere is now actively developing and people are constantly trying something new, trying to create new promising areas. But only time will tell what will be effective and what will soon be forgotten. According to the expert, any undertaking in this area is a step towards the development of the crypto industry.

Danatar Atajanov, Brand Manager of the OXLY.IO crypto platform, believes that the DeSci movement arose in response to an excessive concentration of resources necessary for the development of science in dominant scientific centers, which may restrict access to these resources for their own purposes. Access to resources such as funding, information and advanced tools in our time can be limited for various reasons, and, as the practice of recent days has shown, including political ones.

Simply put, DeSci is a decentralized environment that allows you to create a self-regulating system for obtaining and disseminating knowledge, scientific research, works of literature and art, as well as a fair distribution of funding for scientific research and development. To this we can add the expansion of cooperation between scientists in these areas with no borders or intermediaries.

Victoria Ustimenko, CEO of PRETOBUSINESS PR agency, says,

“I don't think DeSci is a hype. The so-called decentralized science, with open access to scientific experiments and final development, financed by crypto, is not a new idea. There have been attempts to raise funding for scientific development. In particular, in 2017, cryptocurrency assets attracted a number of MedTech startups. The Vanhealthing CryptoFund of Biotech Innovations cryptocurrency fund was established, within which it was planned to raise millions of dollars for the scientific development of a number of startups of Ukrainian origin.

“The only difference of DeSci is open source and open scientific research, the opportunity to join the development. This is a good PR move. However, if we are talking about the search for drugs for cancer, autoimmune diseases, the final studies are carried out on no-option patients, meaning patients in the final stages of the disease. And here, on the one hand, the question of the humanity of publishing the results in open source arises (there is still medical confidentiality). Moreover, not all patients survive and this is also a matter of ethics. On the other hand, biotechnology is a weapon and is in charge of a certain defense capability of the country, so the issue of legalizing such communities is also doubtful.”

What problems of the crypto industry and science can DeSci solve?

One of the main problems of the scientific sphere is limited access to scientific knowledge, which is largely associated with excessive dependence on publishers. For research to be taken seriously in academia, it must be published in a scientific journal. This not only limits the availability of information, but also creates a paywall for the reader, as journals typically use a subscription format. In addition, some publishers charge huge fees for publishing articles, placing a heavy financial burden on researchers. Limited access to information hinders the scientific community in many ways. This limits collaboration between researchers, and the latter is one of the basic principles of the scientific method. It also feeds misconceptions about the scientific method, which sows distrust of science among the general public.

Finding research funding is another major challenge. In particular, the current system forces scientists to struggle to meet fairly rigid criteria in the hope of getting grants. This limits the scope of funded projects, encouraging scientists to flock to certain types of research and leave out other important but less vibrant areas.

How decentralized science can help

The advent of the blockchain and its rapid evolution has inspired scientists to decentralized science, a new movement to solve these problems. The breakthrough potential of the technology is already being used in such large industries as manufacturing, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, so the involvement of blockchain in the field of science is not surprising, especially when so many properties and functions of the blockchain seem to be tailor-made to solve the problems discussed above.

We asked the experts what DeSci is focused on and what current problems of the crypto industry and modern science can be solved with the help of this movement.

Alexander Morozov, Project Manager in the Fintech sector, believes that the DeSci movement can help domestic and global science. Researchers may face censorship of their work and publication bans. DeSci projects solve this problem by allowing scientists to publish their work and not be afraid of any restrictions.

According to the expert, this is an important step for the history of the crypto world, as the sphere becomes more serious and mature. Anyone interested in DeSci should turn their attention to rapidly developing platform projects that provide all the functionality for work. An example of such a project is Utopia, where authors of scientific and other publications can find funding and organize work on their projects. Such ecosystems have great potential.

Dmitry Noskov says,

“This is an attempt to decentralize science, enable a larger circle of people, through the use of blockchain technology, to conduct scientific research, freely share their ideas and results, have active cooperation, and also do crowdfunding for new research. Thus, the crypto industry will become more diverse and richer, as a new field of activity will be integrated into it (not only art, as, for example, in the case of NFT, but now also science).”

Vladimir Gorgadze notes DeSci is aimed at bringing together scientists from all over the world to solve certain problems. It would seem that at present there are no technical problems to create such teams in almost any composition that would work on solving research issues, because virtual presence technologies allow this. However, for the effective work of teams, an effective organization is required (here the experience to be used is of DAO–Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, which have studied the issues of decentralized management, consensus decision-making, changing / improving the rules of interaction), as well as decentralized financing by crowdfunding with a transparent system of funding and distribution. Nowadays, the financing of scientific activity all over the world largely depends on the State and its budgetary policy, which makes scientific activity highly dependent on the economic situation of the country. Decentralization could help reduce this dependency.

The expert also adds that smart contracts will reduce the subjective factor and increase the efficiency of scientific activity assessments. Blockchain technologies could also help with the consolidation of work, intellectual property rights and independent reputation records, which is extremely important in the scientific world. For the crypto industry, such use of DLT (decentralized ledger technologies) will allow developing technologies, DAO concepts, improving DAO stability, testing many socio-cultural aspects of management on teams that are ready to record results and improve methods systematically.

Dmitry Prikhodko says,

“There is only one problem, a lack of new breakthrough ideas in science. Neural networks, blockchain, the Internet are all technologies from the 20th century. The thing is that now there are many tools for putting them into practice and implementing them into business processes. DeSci can bring together creative people around the world who can still change the world for the better. This movement will resolve issues with a planning horizon bigger than 10 or 20 years. So right now we will not see the effect of the activities of this organization.”

Marat Mynbaev emphasizes the blockchain allows science to develop and the community to expand and work together in order to solve research problems. For DeSci, the researchers themselves have a key role and value. The more they contribute to the platform (that is, how often their knowledge and projects are used by other scientists), the more value they receive and can earn from it. In a decentralized system, a researcher can retain rights to their work, as well as have its significance objectively evaluated, earn tokens for working as a reviewer or, for example, linking data files from one study to another, with blockchain allowing you to track the movement of these files.

According to the expert, DeSci is a kind of evolution of science and its integration with the modern blockchain development. We have already evidenced this in the computer and Internet spheres. In the beginning, creating a webpage was a complex set of codes in HTML. Over time, programs have become more simplified and understandable, allowing more people to become members of the Internet community. This is how Javascript was born, and for those who do not need coding at all, but need websites, they created WordPress. DeSci is doing the same now, namely, it is opening access to science to a wide range of people.

Victoria Ustimenko says,

“Among the advantages of the development of DeSci, one can note the possibility of circumventing sanctions or neutralizing them for any sanctioned country. The exchange of information is undoubtedly useful for the development of science. Biotechnology is a very complex industry, as is R&D in general. There is a very high threshold for entry into the scientific sphere as an investor. These are futures transactions, and, of course, they are interesting as a fact to the market and non-institutional investors, since they carry a mission.”

Danatar Atajanov notes that the DeSci movement is in the very beginning of its journey and does not have clear descriptions or definitions. But the main outlines of the application of DeSci are already there:

  • Funding problems hinder the development of science and remain one of the main pains for scientists and researchers. Besides the need to constantly deal with grant applications and financial reports, success in obtaining or prolonging funding may depend on a host of other factors that are not directly related to science. The application of blockchain technologies, DeFi achievements, the use of NFTs and the organization of specialized DAOs will help create sustainable channels for receiving funds. In the same vein, the problem of financing fundamental developments by selling commercial research or receiving royalties for using the results of research by scientists can be solved through the blockchain.
  • Information access and information sharing is another global problem that DeSci can solve. Many scientific studies are closed for free public use. Making them accessible is one of the main tasks of the new sector. This also includes the use of smart contracts in avoiding intermediaries who profit from the exchange of information and peer review of scientific research.
  • Fight against political pressure and censorship using blockchain, wherein scientists and researchers can anonymously and securely store, share and access their work data from anywhere in the world.

Today, DeSci is experimenting with blockchain technology, trying to improve the scientific environment and science in general. With the help of new tools, DeSci looks forward to empowering scientists and achieving new scientific results to speed up progress.

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