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Blockchain in the management of science: conceptual models, promises and challenges

06/09/2020
by   Artyom Kosmarski, et al.
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Blockchain has received much attention recently, due to its promises of verifiable, permanent, decentralized, and efficient data handling. In 2017-2019 blockchain and associated technologies such as smart contracts has progressed beyond cryptocurrencies, and has been adopted in banking, retail, healthcare, and other fields. This study critically examines recent applications of blockchain in science, touching upon different stages of research cycle, from data management to publishing, peer review, research evaluation and funding. The paper is based upon a review of blockchain projects, relevant literature, a set of interviews and focus groups with startup founders, scholars, librarians, IT experts from the EU, USA, Russia, and Belarus. Proponents of blockchain for science present this technology as a tool to make science free from bias, red tape, data fraud, as well as provide innovative means to secure financial backing for new ideas. However, these projects face a set of challenges. One issue concerns introducing crypto economy, with its financial incentives, into science, a field that emphasizes disinterested and non-pecuniary pursuit of truth. Another source of concern relates to the ongoing conflict between the principle of decentralization inherent to blockchain and the practice of forcing it from above, by the state and other centralized entities.

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