What Is Decentralized Science (DeSci) and What Makes It Special?

Decentralized science (DeSci)

The new decentralized science movement sounds like a blast and is viewed as a viable solution for numerous challenges that traditional science has been addressing. But what stands behind it, and how exactly can it help take science to a whole new level?

Web 3.0 has demonstrated a wonderful capacity to bring about meaningful and powerful transformation in multiple spheres, including, but not limited to, social media, gaming, the creator economy, and even nature conservation.

The advancements of web3 tools such as NFTs and DAOs have had a profound impact on science too — and this is how the groundbreaking decentralized science concept, or simply DeSci, came to be.

Read on to find out more about decentralized finance, its benefits, use cases, and current limitations, and discover what DeSci projects are out there.

What is decentralized science (DeSci) and why is it important?

Decentralized science is a web3 movement whose primary goal is to upgrade traditional science and provide a fully-fledged public infrastructure for scientific research, publication, and funding using advanced tools and technologies such as blockchain, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), crypto tokens, and smart contracts.

DeSci is striving to establish an environment where everyone can easily share their scientific work, as well as accessing and contributing to the research of other members. Crucially, decentralized science is also seeking to provide more diverse funding sources and deliver a censorship-resistant distributed scientific research model.

What are the key benefits of decentralized science?

Infographic with pros of decentralized science (DeSci)

DeSci brings a variety of significant boons that can help enhance and democratize traditional science in many ways, and help scientists and researchers bolster their day-to-day activities.

Let’s consider some of the key advantages of DeSci in greater detail below.

DeSci provides advanced funding opportunities

Until now, the process of acquiring funding for scientific research has been top-down, monotonous, and overly bureaucratic, requiring the involvement of a panel of trusted individuals from specialized funding agencies.

What’s more, finance has become scarce and the entire funding landscape has seen tough competition. That is why a multitude of worthwhile initiatives and innovations drop out of the bidding game in the early stages. Meanwhile, funding is granted to projects that were chosen and prioritized by senior stakeholders who may have a significant bias.

Web3, however, can reverse the situation and reduce reliance on public or institutional funding by introducing high-end funding methods where the distribution and allocation of funds will be determined by the public. These include blockchain-powered quadratic and retroactive funding methods as well as decentralized autonomous organizations.

Blockchain-enabled crowdfunding platforms also help raise the necessary funds more quickly and simply, without involving any intermediaries. Plus, the introduction of tokens in DeSci facilitates hassle-free financing of scientific research and projects, enabling literally anyone to become a scientific investor and encouraging innovation.

DeSci makes scientific data available and guarantees its secure storage

In DeSci, blockchain technology allows for the creation of open, yet immutable, secure, and  censorship-resistant databases that are extremely hard to tamper with. As a result, all research data, scientific findings, and publications can be safely stored on the chain with no questions over their authenticity, since any changes made to the data would be visible to the public.

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DeSci fosters greater collaboration

Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) have the capacity to strengthen and unite the global scientific community as well as allow all members to enjoy fruitful and transparent cooperation.

In decentralized science, DAOs serve as a viable and more advanced alternative to traditional science and research entities. These focus on establishing a stimulating and democratic environment where everyone can access and offer research resources and materials and, essentially, have their voices heard.

As of today, the current DeSci landscape boasts a variety of DAOs, each of them catering to the needs of a certain research direction such as peer review or project funding. Noteworthy is that DAO members who make a meaningful contribution to the community — for example, act as co-founders, advisors, or a collaborating organization — can receive rewards, which will encourage them to do more to further community development and knowledge base accumulation.

In addition, smart contracts that underpin DAOs can contribute enormously to the enhancement of the peer review process. The issue today is that scholars, editors, and reviewers usually carry out the peer review process for free while publishing houses generate enormous profits from it. But with self-executing smart contracts, authors can do without intermediaries and directly engage with peer reviewers, rewarding them for the job they do.

DeSci preserves intellectual property rights

It turns out that non-fungible tokens are not just about pictures, videos, and GIFs… In fact, NFTs have the ability to preserve intellectual property on the DeSci landscape.

Intellectual property NFTs, more commonly known as just IP NFTs, can be created to ensure the authenticity and prove the credentials of tokenized scientific assets or data such as research findings, articles, and so on.

As well as this, intellectual property NFTs can be transparently and safely traded on specialized blockchain-based marketplaces. Interested parties will not need to resort to third parties to help them purchase an IP NFT.

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What are the challenges of decentralized science?

Infographic with cons of decentralized science (DeSci)

In spite of its numerous extraordinary capabilities, decentralized science does have some controversial limitations that might stave off its wider adoption. These include issues such as lower scientific quality, inadequate understanding of DeSci underlying web3 tools and technologies, and high investment and development costs.

All of these, as well as other considerations, make DeSci something of a risky venture, which is why some people are slow to turn their theoretical ideas and technological experiments into real-life DeSci products.

Lower scientific quality

First of all, many experts in the field view the alluring inclusivity and availability features of DeSci as an obstacle to the accuracy and reliability of scientific results and research data. They are afraid that scientific quality might suffer if this new realm welcomes literally anyone without discerning true professionals from amateurs and self-proclaimed experts.

Inadequate understanding of DeSci underlying tools

It goes without saying that currently, very few people possess sufficient knowledge of how web3 tools function and how to apply them in their day-to-day activities. The decentralized science movement is saturated with high-level technologies that need to be understood inside-out — yet, the scientific community may prove to be too lenient and slow to change their customary practices for something totally new and absolutely unknown.

To battle this challenge, it is of the utmost importance to educate DeSci communities about how to leverage web3 concepts and tools such as DAOs, NFTs, blockchain-enabled databases, and the like, and explain why and, crucially, how the tech can benefit their workflows.

High investment and development costs

Given that decentralized science applications and solutions are predicated on blockchain technology which is itself quite costly to implement, the DeSci realm will need a lot of investors and patrons who believe in its long-term success and agree to invest in it. Without sufficient capital, it will be extremely hard to develop the DeSci ecosystem and bring about more innovative products that can really make a difference in the scientific community.

What DeSci solutions and applications are already out there?

Infographic with decentralized science (DeSci) projects

The current DeSci landscape is primarily represented by decentralized autonomous organization applications which mainly specialize in BioTech.

Below we will consider DeSci projects such as PsyDAO, LabDAO, GenomesDAO, CureDAO, and OceanDAO in greater detail.

PsyDAO

PsyDAO is striving to provide funding and democratize early-stage research and intellectual property in the field of psychedelics with the help of tokenized ownership, community governance, and a strong emphasis on open-source technology.

Membership of PsyDAO is open to literally anyone, and privacy protection is guaranteed. The creators of the solution also state that data and research will be shared with zero knowledge of the identity of the sender or recipient.

LabDAO

LabDAO represents a community of scientists and engineers who are willing to share open tools for life science research. The core mission of the community is to speed up progress in the life sciences by providing easy and hassle-free access to both computational and wet lab tools to all members.

By sharing data and cooperating on resource management, LabDAO wants to establish a robust digital ecosystem for scientific research that will strengthen processes and extend collaboration on a broader scale.

GenomesDAO

GenomesDAO is a private and secure DNA data bank. It provides its users with full control over their own genome by making use of AMD SVS-ES Vault and blockchain technology.

The main mission of this initiative is to tackle the privacy, security, and ownership concerns around DNA testing and sharing, and create the world’s largest user-owned genomic data bank to secure the future of personalized medicine.

CureDAO

CureDAO is poised to deliver an open-source platform that will assist in discovering how millions of factors like food, drugs, and supplements affect human health.

Open to anyone, CureDAO encourages active participation and allows its members to earn tokens by completing quests and experiments to further the platform’s key mission.

OceanDAO

Created by the Ocean Protocol, OceanDAO has been rolled out to help fund projects in the web3 data economy. The DAO platform primarily caters to the interests of two categories: projects that need funding to build something or unlock data, and OCEAN token holders who want to shape the future of Ocean by learning about proposals and voting.

With the help of OceanDAO, the Ocean community is eager to bring about a novel economic model that will grant power to data owners and enable people to capture insights from data that could make our world better and create positive value.

What does the future of decentralized science look like?

Despite the fact that there is still a long way to go before DeSci is embraced on a global scale, it has already demonstrated great potential and piqued the interest of numerous scientists and entrepreneurs who are willing to leverage the powers of web3 to bolster and upgrade their workflows.

Crucially, by leveraging top-notch web3 tools and capabilities such as smart contracts, NFTs, and DAOs, DeSci provides scientific communities with multiple benefits such as novel funding opportunities, greater data availability, enhanced cooperation, and better protection of intellectual property rights.

If you are keen to deliver your own ground-breaking and powerful DeSci application or just need to work out its technical vision, reach out to our team of blockchain professionals for help. With almost 10 years of experience in the blockchain domain, we know all the ins and outs of the technology and will be glad to share our expertise with you.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute advice or recommendations for embracing or investing in decentralized science (DeSci) or web3. Please seek professional advice before taking financial risks.

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Kira Belova

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