How Do Decentralized Science (DeSci) Organizations Work?
DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, have been created for various functions, such as managing art and music collections, investing in assets, and acting as market makers. However, a sub-category of decentralized organizations has been rapidly evolving in the last year.
Known as DeSci (decentralized science) organizations, they aim to utilize technologies such as blockchain and Web3 to solve the challenges of the scientific world, including funding, bottlenecks, access to research, and silos.
DeSci extends beyond the well-known Open Science movement, which uses online fundraising platforms to promote scientific research, to focus on global challenges, such as longevity, mental health, and environmental issues.
Although DeSci dates back to 2015, organizations have been emerging at an increasing rate in the past year, with the first Open Science NFT sold for 13 ETH in March 2021. The DeSci movement isn’t yet a solidified concept, as its driving principles, or ‘rules’, are still evolving.
How do DeSci organizations work?
Like other decentralized organizations, DeSci organizations use blockchain and Web3 technologies to fulfill their purposes. In doing so, they focus on solving several significant challenges the scientific research community faces today. These include being able to:
Work together at a greater scale
Moore’s law represents an exponential increase in technological advancements, but “Eroom’s law” states that medical drug discovery is becoming slower and more expensive over time. This is in spite of advances in technology and processes, and it has been attributed to overly cautious regulators, inflation, and a tendency to throw money at problems. DAOs are attempting to reverse this trend and give medical science the trajectory of Moore’s law. The idea is that, buy utilizing such a decentralized organizational structure, scientists can collate their knowledge and experience within a global community and foster scientific advances.
Harness new funding methods
Scientific research has long been a top-down process, with decisions made by the people with the finances. These people normally represent governments or large pharmaceuticals, who usually base their investments on which project has the highest potential to succeed: a risk-averse approach. DeSci organizations can utilize tools such as NFTs and cryptocurrencies to community-fund research, for example, via Defi protocols or by monetizing IP NFTs, essentially putting the power of decision-making in the hands of the DAO and its participants.
Democratize science and reduce censorship
Alongside allowing broader participation and funding opportunities, DeSci organizations target deep-rooted challenges in the scientific world, such as democratizing peer-to-peer reviews, which are often monopolized by industry publishers that charge high rates, and combating censorship, which affects the accessibility of certain research activities, including publication, with research and valuable data being lost over time. Using a blockchain, DeFi can provide publication storage and proof of existence, thus keeping research data safe indefinitely and ensuring that no matter how insignificant a piece of data may seem at the time, it is still there if it becomes more valuable later.
Verify research and increase credibility
Just as transactions on the blockchain are verified manually by the scientific community, research could also be verified using the blockchain. Such technology exists to allow the creation of peer review ecosystems that are both transparent and credible. In addition, scientists could receive a stake or ‘reward’ for participating, incentivizing a wider community to participate in creating a collaborative structure parallel to the current traditional organization-based structure.
What types of activities are DeSci organizations currently undertaking?
DeSci is a broad concept that can incorporate a wide range of scientific focus areas. However, to date, many emerging DeSci organizations have chosen to focus on the biotech sphere.
- VitaDAO is one of the first viable biotech DAOs; it focuses on making longevity research a sustainable reality through collective R&D using blockchain technology.
- PsyDAO is an emerging biotech DAO that aims to fund research into mental health and psychedelics and their impact on human well-being.
- labDAO seeks to optimize R&D in the science sphere by harnessing the power of a DAO to decentralize management and ownership mechanisms of outsourced scientific research.
- LYNX is a startup collecting and storing personal data from wearable health technology in order to give people more control over their own health.
- Phage Directory focuses on phage therapy and access using technology.
- SCINET supports funding for research and science projects and is a blockchain-based funding mechanism for investors to invest in health technology.
- GenomesDAO intends to harness the power of DeFi to make research into genomic data possible.
What are the next steps for DeSci organizations?
As DeSci organizations evolve, their focus and structure will become more clearly defined and achievable goals identified. However, these organizations will have to prove their merit and scientific quality while ensuring that their protocols lead them to meet substantial end goals, rather than just a set of general principles, before they can prove their effectiveness in improving how science is done.