Blockchain set to revolutionise academic publishing

It seems that there is very little that blockchain cannot do. Every day we are seeing more and more use cases emerging for even the most unexpected things.

In today’s world, scientists are able to contribute to research and learn from research without any restrictions. This said the academic publishing industry is currently structured in such a way that it actually inhibits academics and their ability to truly express themselves. Instead of being focused on developing new technologies and areas of knowledge, it is focussed on profit margins. A study in 2015 shows that just five academic scholars published over half of the year’s publications – a clear indication or an oligopoly market.

A money-making business

The process of peer review which is a huge part of scientific progress is usually performed for free by members of the academic community, yet it still generates huge sums of revenue for the private companies that are involved in. Many say that ultimately the taxpayers should be the ones to shoulder these costs through the salaries of the academics and the research projects that they undertake. These costs are in addition to expensive library subscription fees which can be anywhere between $350,000 and $9 million each year.

The process of reviewing usually takes between one and two years, and during this time the researcher is often unaware of how things are progressing. Exclusivity agreements and NDAs often stop academics from discussing their work during this time meaning that there can be no further development during this time frame. By basically kidnapping ownership of a scientist’s work, it creates a disincentive which in turn further discourages the scientific community to continue creating high-quality work.

At the core of our economy

There is no doubt that science is the most effective method ever designed when it comes to creating new economic sectors of activity. Science has always been at the forefront of our economic systems and many of these discoveries and inventions seek to make the world a better place.

From the light bulb to power stations, electric cars to quantum computers, science is always finding new ways to help us progress. Recently, for example, we have seen how a project called SpaceX is changing the aerospace industry by using recycled rockets and saving $18m per launch. This upwards trajectory of progress can only be maintained however if academics are allowed to quickly and freely share their work for the benefit of society as a whole.

The blockchain gives us a truly unique opportunity to address key issues in the current scientific publishing system. Things such as overly-lengthy review times and expensive costs can be negated through this integration. By offering economic and reputational rewards to peer reviewers, we are able to ensure that all research is peer-reviewed and then published in a more efficient way, as well as at a considerably lower cost. This type of shift in the way in which we approach scientific research publishing is set to benefit both the academic community and society at large. As research is published more quickly, future projects are then able to benefit from the information as well as be able to use it in their own research.

 

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