Combat misconduct in research using blockchain

There are issues to be solved in academia. Some claim, and research shows this to be true, that misconduct in research has increased. Can blockchain be a part of the solution to reduce this behavior? How can we combat misconduct in research using blockchain?

Before we answer this question we need to look at the concept of misconduct. What is misconduct in research?

What is misconduct in research?

Misconduct in Research
Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

Misconduct in research can be many things; it can be premeditated or as the result of lack of knowledge. Both cases are harmful in many ways to society, research, and individuals. Some examples of misconduct can be cheating with data, plagiarism or duplications, to mention some. This misconduct is severe and would affect academia in many ways, direct and indirectly. As it is today, there are few mechanisms to identify and react against misconduct.

One paper where we can read about the increased academic misconduct is in Vijay Moans article “On the use of blockchain-based mechanisms to tackle academic misconduct” (Mohan, 2019). Here you can get some background as to how he believes the “winner takes it all” contest-like situation in academia is building a ground for more incidents of misconduct. The article provides a good framework to understand the situation.

Back to the blockchain. One of the solutions to combat misconduct ,he suggests, is to use blockchain technology. In short, his idea is that blockchain can provide methods and technology for alleviating problems with the academic publishing industry. The idea is that blockchain can work as a monitoring technology, and thus be a part of a solution to increase the probability that misconduct will be detected. According to Mohan, there are not enough of such monitoring platforms today.

Read the article by Vijay Mohan published in Research Policy 48 (2019) (subscription journal)

KnowledgeArc and blockchain

At KnowledgeArc we believe in blockchain. Firstly, we believe the technology can be a way to meet the challenges of open science. Secondly, we believe the technology can be a game changer when it comes to changing the focus from quantity to quality in publication. And lastly, we believe blockchain can add security and full openness to the equation. With this in mind we also believe that blockchain can be one of several initiatives which can contribute to improved academic processes.

These are just some of the ways we can combat misconduct in research using blockchain. What are your thoughts in this regard? Leave comments below…

Read more about our blockchain developments here.

Identifying academic content using the blockchain

The KnowledgeArc.Network blockchain developers have been working hard over the summer. Here is some news on what they have been working on, including academic content on the blockchain.

Identifiers and Academic Content

One of the ways we believe the blockchain can add real value to the scientific process is to have stable, permanent and open identifiers. Therefore, we are working on how to implement stable identifiers, like author ids or persistent identifiers for academic content.

Currently, if your 3rd party identification provider stops working, introduces a bug or simply decides they don’t want to be in business any more, your identifiers will be lost forever. Moving identifiers to the blockchain ensures true permanency and full ownership by you.

Read more about our blockchain development in our blog.

You can also check out our whitepaper which we launched in June.

Archives on the chain

We have all heard about the blockchain, or at least we have heard about bitcoin and other digital currencies which experienced another cycle of hype a couple a years ago. As with the cycles before it, the hype died down, and some made profits while others were left with little (or even no) value after investing in poorly managed crypto projects. How can archives on the chain rise up out of this situation?

Archives on the chain - Photo by Clint Adair on Unsplash

At KnowledgeArc we believe that both cryptocurrency and the blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, can be used for many purposes in the real world, for instance, opening up scientific research and discovery. One area where blockchain can make a difference is within the open archive area. The technology currently use to store, share and open up knowledge is not particularly robust and most archives are easily manipulated, making them neither immutable nor permanent. They are also not really as open as we would like them to be. By using new technology like blockchain to build our archive ecology, we believe we can change the archiving to be more open, distributed and democratized.

Making Archives Open and Secure

First of all we believe we can make the archives truly open. Today we are dependent on Google, Amazon or other proprietary actors to store the large amounts of data that we want to archive. As long as we depend on these actors, our archives are not be truly open because our information lies in the hands of a third, commercial party.

We believe that a the solution to this problem is to store the information using p2p (peer to peer) file sharing software. This is a distributed software similar to BitTorrent where files are spread over the network. This would make centralized third parties redundant, and our information will still be safe and available. By doing it this way we return to the beginnings of the internet where openness was the norm, only with new and powerful technology.

But this is not blockchain technology, so where does the blockchain fit into archives on the chain?

The blockchain is the next step in our archive solution, and the step that we mean would solve the safety issues that we are facing in today’s archive solutions. By referencing information about the storage of assets and metadata in an Ethereum smart contract it will stay safe, be impossible to change and will be permanent. This creates a new level of safety within our systems, providing true immutability and permanence; a major contrast to the unsafe archives we have today.

Examples of information that could be stored on chain include handle, DOI or other item identification information, unique author IDs and other data which is important to keep safe and immutable.

Saving Money?

Blockchain, cryptocurrencies and p2p technologies democratize the archiving space. Anyone, will be able to run a low cost archiving node on a desktop computer, laptop or even, possibly, their mobile phone. Archives on the chain will be able to “push” information to other archives, consolidating disparate data in easy-to-digest, federated databases.

In-house servers or cloud infrastructures are no longer needed for simple archiving. Instead, funding can be focussed on building better user experiences, making information easier to find, consume and share.

Decentralized marketplaces will provide competitively priced backup solutions, peer review, journaling and other archive-focussed solutions.

As centralized services become redundant, more democratized solutions will drive prices down. Many of today’s archiving requirements will become automated or will only require a one-off payment to store something permanently.

 Read more about the technical work we are doing on building an archive on the chain.