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Decentralizing scientific publishing: can the blockchain improve science communication?

We present a decentralized solution for managing scientific communication based on distributed ledger technologies also called Blockchains.The proposed system aims at solving the incentive problems displayed by traditional systems for scientific communication and publication. A minimal working model is presented defining roles, processes and expected results from the novel system. The proposed solution is viable given the current status of blockchain technology and should lead to a rethink of current practices and their consequences to scientific communication.

The current model of scientific publishing is in crisis (De Wit, Altbach, & Leask, 2018; Horton, 2016). Even without looking at the numbers, just realizing that the two most essential elements of the system, the author and the reviewer, work for free, gives us the justified impression that this is not a stable or sustainable model. To be fair, the authors do derive value from publishing: their own reputations and incentives from employers by using this publishing model intensively. But the price they pay for it seems unreasonably high.

These imbalances led to the current situation where a number of competing models have emerged, each one with their own strengths and weaknesses. They fall within three main categories:

Traditional Closed Access: free to publish but access only by subscription.

“Gold” Open-access: free access to article content, author pays to publish.

Delayed Open-Access: published articles accessible only after an embargo period.

Beyond these main models there are hybrid journals where authors can choose between models and self-archiving and preprint servers whose models don’t aim to replace peer-reviewed publication. For a detailed view of the open access terminology:

In this article, we consider that the ideal open access model is based on two main features: 1) no economic barriers to either reading or writing of scientific publications, and 2) that reviewers and authors are properly incentivized to play their parts in the system. Since someone must pay the costs on any business model, we propose a blockchain-based system in which everyone gets rewarded in proportion to the value they provide. [+] read more 



Flávio Codeço Coelho, Adeilton Brandão