Research industry technology incubator Digital Science has announced the recipients of its Blockchain Catalyst Grant. This one-off grant was made available to any project implementing Blockchain in a scholarly or scientific context, especially those that addressed the dissemination of research.
Blockchain technology has disrupted the financial sector with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum; the technology has also proved to be valuable in logistics as well as supporting the Internet of Things and other domains. Scholarly communication and open science can benefit from transparency, distributed consensus, accountability, proof of existence, evidence of change, and other features of Blockchain technology. This special grant was created to recognise the potential of Blockchain to create innovative new tools and platforms to improve scholarly communication.
“Blockchain has fantastic potential for scientific research, and we were keen to explore what early-stage, innovative ideas were out there,” said Steve Scott, Director of Portfolio Development, Digital Science. “We were genuinely surprised at both the number of entries for this specialist area and the high quality of all the applications. It was a difficult final decision, and we’ve chosen to award grants to two projects with really interesting potential.’
The team at Datax in Hong Kong are developing a data ecosystem that will improve the quantity, quality and diversity of datasets available for machine learning. The project will allow researchers to crowdsource data with which to train AI’s, while owners of datasets can commercialize their data assets, with the confidence in the exchange provided by Blockchain technology.
“This grant will make a real difference to the development of our new platforms” said Kevin Wong, Co-Founder, Datax, “It will help us put our plans into action by speeding up the development of data crowdsourcing and exchange platform on the Blockchain.”
VIVO, a team based in the United States, proposed the use of Blockchain to create new models of research value based on a diverse set of research outcomes and transactions. Researchers will be rewarded for creating, curating, reusing and improving scientific content, including figures, code, datasets, manuscripts, preprints, and projects. The platform will recognize the value in all research outputs without channelling researchers into reliance on one single tool or platform.
“Scholars could benefit enormously from a system of rewards and incentives that present their contributions in an unambiguous and traceable manner; moreover, as one size does not fit all, communities should be able to define the value for all accepted contributions,” said Mike Conlon, VIVO Project Director, Emeritus Faculty Member, University of Florida. “We look forward to creating fundamentally new opportunities for researchers to openly share and publicize their work.”
“We’re excited to explore the application of Blockchain technology to promote new, open processes for open science and scholarly communication. Our application interoperates with existing infrastructures while focusing on delivering the benefits of Blockchain technology to researchers; easing data management and facilitating a FAIR reward and incentive ecosystem,” said Alexander Garcia Castro, Senior Research Officer at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. “This will bring a new level of transparency and accountability to open science.”
Digital Science’s Catalyst Grant aims to foster innovative ideas in scholarly publishing, and the one-off Blockchain Grant recognises the potential of this particular technology. Both winning applications stood out for their potential to offer concrete benefits to researchers.