For August in Review, we’ve been quietly working on our next product, Knowledge Identifiers, a decentralized proof of ownership of scholarly works. Knowledge Identifiers work like similar systems such as Digital Object Identifiers or Handle.net, but are not controlled by a single authority. Instead, a combination of smart contracts, decentralized file storage and database systems as well as traditional web apps will power this new permanent identification solution.
We will be making our functional specification for the development of Knowledge Identifiers publicly available, and we will post the link to this document shortly. We welcome participation in developing this new solution.
You can also follow our technical progress on Gitlab.
Other Developments for August in Review
We continue to discuss the coming decentralization of archived information with key players in the industry. We seek their expertise on how legacy systems function and how they can be improved through the use of blockchain technologies.
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 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.
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…
July may have been light on news but there have been a lot of developments which will improve KnowledgeArc.Network’s technology moving forward.
Using ARCH for covering Ethereum network costs
We have been investigating the concept of zero gas charges for our upcoming smart contracts. This means that you will not have to hold Ether, the default currency for handling any transaction fees on the Ethereum blockchain, when dealing with our smart contracts. Instead, all fees will be handled using Archive (ARCH) tokens which should aid in onboarding new users to the decentralized archive.
One of our developers has been working with the OrbitDB community to develop another way to communicate with the decentralized database system. For developers and technical users, you can find out more at https://github.com/orbitdb/go-orbit-db/.
We’re working on a decentralized digital asset identification system using Ethereum smart contracts and OrbitDB. Knowledge Identifiers will provide an alternative to existing, centralized solutions such as Handle.net and DOI.
Such a system will provide immutable, permanent identification of digital assets, collections and even users in a trustless way, which means users won’t be beholden to a single point of failure; instead they will be able to manage their identifiers on chain with no 3rd party dependency.
This opens up exciting new use cases; identifiers will no longer simply be permanent links to an item. Instead they could potentially open up licensing, citation and other opportunities.
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.
June was an important month in the evolution of KnowledgeArc.Network. We review some of the highlights from the month.
We released our whitepaper early in June. This was an important step; even though we had been developing features and software for over two years, the whitepaper captured the reason behind KnowledgeArc.Network and distilled what our ecosystem is all about at a higher level.
Deploying our whitepaper to IPFS also highlighted our commitment to distributed technologies.
We’re committed to decentralization, distribution and democracy. Therefore, we are excited to see our cryptocurrency, Archive (ARCH), listed on two decentralized exchanges; SwitchDex and Ethermium.
We hope this will make it easier for our community to obtain Archive for ongoing development in the KnowledgeArc.Network ecosystem.
It’s important for decentralized applications to move forward, and to be actively developed and supported. However, with dApps and other distributed applications being nascent technologies, not all of the underlying architecture is ready for production. As is often the case, software is still going through active development and requires a lot of resources to get it to a stable, production-ready state. This can mean that projects look stagnant even though developers are hard at work on various, related projects.
KnowledgeArc.Network is using IPFS as the underlying storage mechanism. This includes OrbitDB, a decentralized, peer-to-peer database system, which uses IPFS for replication. OrbitDB is a powerful technology and will be one of the cornerstones of the new Web3, similar to what MySQL did for the Internet v1.
OrbitDB will be KnowledgeArc.Network’s decentralized storage layer, storing metadata and other supporting information. The ecosystem will be able to replicate these OrbitDB data stores as well as combine them to form larger databases.
OrbitDB is under active development. That is why we have contributed time and resources to assist with the success of this project. Some of our work includes co-contributing to the HTTP API and field manual as well as maintaining the Go implementation of OrbitDB.
The KnowledgeArc.Network Working Group
We have started a working group, a place for advisors and experts to discuss ways to decentralize archiving, peer review and journalling.
During June, we invited some project managers and librarians who work in the archiving space to join our working group and we welcome these new members. We hope to expand this group of experts and look forward to seeing what insights they can provide to this new ecosystem.
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?
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.
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.
The convenience of hosted solutions for digital assets and archiving can hide a major problem; do you control the data you own? KnowledgeArc.Network’s decentralized architecture ensures you are in full control of your data.
Do you really own your data?
Hosting digital assets in the cloud has become a popular and cost-effective solution. But what happens when you decide the host you are with is no longer providing the level of service you expect?
You may think migration is as simple as your existing host dumping the data out to a backup file and making it available for your new provider to restore. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that simple; closed source applications often have proprietary formats which make them difficult or even impossible to import into other systems.
On the other hand, some open source systems are customized, but the customizations might not be publicly available, so backups only capture a subset of your data. For example, there are archive hosting providers who have built multi-tenant data storage on top of a single application. Databases in such a system cannot simply be lifted and re-implemented on other infrastructure. This results in broken features and crucial data being excluded from the system.
Even if migrating from one system to another runs smoothly, complex backups and time-consuming debugging are often required. Export/import tools need constant maintenance, but with niche products such as digital asset systems, maintenance of these ancillary tools can often be ignored.
A distributed solution
The KnowledgeArc.Network platform makes centralized storage obsolete. Data is replicated in multiple locations whilst still being owned of the original creator.
Replication allows application managers, developers and system administrators to build a variety of user experiences on top of the data. There is no need to set up complex data structures, import and export data, or work around missing data. Instead, the user simply replicates an existing database and works directly on top of it.
Data can also remain private even though it is stored in a public way. By encrypting data, the owner is the only one with access to this information and can grant other users varying degrees of control. For example, perhaps certain users might only be able to read data. Others might be able to update existing data but not delete it.
Centralized vs decentralized
Recently there has been a move to more centralized archiving solutions. Instead of disparate systems talking to one another or federated systems being established to support a “go-to” repository of information, a number of governments and bureaucracies are pushing for everything to be centralized. This results in a stagnation of innovation and, more importantly, a single point of failure.
KnowledgeArc.Network decentralized databases will capture the best of both worlds; every archive is unique but their records can easily be merged into a single, federated archive. This federated archive can then be replicated further so that multiple user interfaces can be created on top of the same data.
KnowledgeArc.Network captures the best of every model. Decentralized, independent databases provide institutions with full control and ownership of their data. Federated archives simply merge distributed databases into a single data store. And, finally, the entire community can build their own user experiences on top of any archived data by simply replicating an existing database.
At KnowledgeArc.Network, we believe that the publishing, dissemination and archiving or information needs to fundamentally change.
Information should be open and public. It should also incentivize a decentralized community to participate in the creation, review, licensing, verification and archiving of information.
A democratized ecosystem for peer review
A single entity should not control and decide what quality content can or cannot be peer reviewed and published. Large, well-funded institutions should not receive preferential treatment over smaller, less-funded ones. Instead, we believe the entire community can actively participate in the review and publishing process. The community can decide inclusion of a work based on its merits rather than the size of an institution’s reach and influence.
Your data held for ransom
The convenience of a third-party hosting provider can often mean you give up control of your data. If you decide to change hosts or move information to in-house infrastructure, you are reliant on your existing host to hand over all your data. Depending on your agreement with your host, it may not be possible to salvage it all.
KnowledgeArc.Network uses decentralized technologies to store, sign and verify your archived information. An archiving provider can no longer hold your data exclusively; you and others can replicate your data, even if it is private, whether it is to another hosting provider, an in-house server or even your local computer.
Multiple versions of the data also ensures there isn’t a single point of failure.
Incentivizing the community
Current solutions incentivize and reward middlemen, but it is the authors, reviewers, end-users and developers who create all of the information from which these middlemen profit.
KnowledgeArc.Network aims to incentivize the community and revenue will go directly to the participants of ecosystem. Citations and licensing will flow directly to the creators of works archived to the ecosystem through the use of automated agreements (smart contracts). Community members will conduct peer review, with smart contracts providing remuneration directly. Developers will have access to the entire system and will be able to create tools and processes which directly benefit all users. And users will be able to directly reward content creators for their contribution to the ecosystem.
Alternative statistics and metrics could even result in additional earnings for content creators as impact factor is monetized.
The whitepaper is not the start of our development cycle. KnowledgeArc.Network has been in development for 2 years and momentum is growing.
We are integrating various technologies with our archiving platform and ecosystem and cultivating partnerships with other blockchain systems which we have identified as key to the evolution of the KnowledgeArc.Network ecosystem.
The utility token, Archive (ARCH) powers the KnowledgeArc.Network for transactions within the decentralized ecosystem.
Community members participating in the ecosystem will be able to directly earn tokens; authors will earn through citations and licensing, peer reviewers through verifying the authenticity of works, developers by extending functionality and providing customizations and resource providers by providing solutions such as backups and hosting applications.
We are working on ways to make using Archive as easy as possible and are incentivizing key archiving players to embrace KnowledgeArc.Network and blockchain technologies to replace redundant solutions and methodologies.