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.

Self-signed certificates with local root CA

This tutorial briefly covers the creating and trusting your own certificate authority (CA) for issuing self-signed SSL certificates, and is designed to work with OribitDB’s new REST API HTTP/2 push services.

This tutorial is aimed at Unix-based systems, in particular Ubuntu and other Debian-based Linux distributions so you will need to modify the commands for your own platform. All code examples are intended to be copied and pasted directly to the command line and will generate certificates in your current working directory.

To get started, we are going to create a root certificate which we will use to sign additional SSL certificates with.

First, create your root CA private key:

openssl genrsa -des3 -out rootSSL.key 2048
Generating RSA private key, 2048 bit long modulus
………………+++
………………………………………………………………………+++
e is 65537 (0x010001)
Enter pass phrase for rootSSL.key:

You will be prompted for a password. Be sure to specify one that is long enough as you may encounter errors if your password is too short.

Next, use your CA private key to create a root certificate:

openssl req -x509 -new -nodes -key rootSSL.key -sha256 -days 1024 -out rootSSL.pem

Once launched, you will need to re-enter the password you assigned to your private key:

Enter pass phrase for rootSSL.key:

If successful, provide information about your certificate:

 You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
 into your certificate request.
 What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
 There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
 For some fields there will be a default value,
 If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
 Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:
 State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:WA
 Locality Name (eg, city) []:
 Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:
 Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
 Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []:localhost
 Email Address []:

You are now ready to install the new CA certificate into your CA trust store. The following commands will copy the root certificate into Ubuntu’s CA store so you may need to modify the paths if you are on a different distribution or OS platform:

sudo mkdir /usr/local/share/ca-certificates/extra
sudo cp rootSSL.pem \/usr/local/share/ca-certificates/extra/rootSSL.crt
sudo update-ca-certificates

Now it is time to generate a certificate for your development environment. Create a private key for your new certificate:

openssl req \
 -new -sha256 -nodes \
 -out localhost.csr \
 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout localhost.key \
 -subj "/C=AU/ST=WA/L=City/O=Organization/OU=OrganizationUnit/CN=localhost/emailAddress=demo@example.com"

Next, create the certificate, signing it with your Root CA:

openssl x509 \
 -req \
 -in localhost.csr \
 -CA rootSSL.pem -CAkey rootSSL.key -CAcreateserial \
 -out localhost.crt \
 -days 500 \
 -sha256 \
 -extfile <(echo " \
    [ v3_ca ]\n \
    authorityKeyIdentifier=keyid,issuer\n \
    basicConstraints=CA:FALSE\n \
    keyUsage = digitalSignature, nonRepudiation, keyEncipherment, dataEncipherment\n \
    subjectAltName=DNS:localhost \
   ")

Your SSL certificate is now ready for use. To use it with OrbitDB’s REST API, launch the cli.js script with the flags –https-key and –https-cert, using the new localhost.key and localhost.crt files we just created:

node src/cli.js api --ipfs-host localhost --orbitdb-dir ./orbitdb --https-cert ./localhost.crt --https-key ./localhost.key

The certificates should validate against your Root CA when used with tools such as curl:

curl -vs --http2 -X POST https://localhost:3000/db/my-feed --data 'create=true' --data 'type=feed'
 successfully set certificate verify locations:
 CAfile: /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
 CApath: /etc/ssl/certs
 ...
 SSL connection using TLSv1.2 / ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
 ALPN, server accepted to use h2
 Server certificate:
 subject: C=AU; ST=WA; L=Ellenbrook; O=Organization; OU=OrganizationUnit; CN=localhost; emailAddress=demo@example.com
 start date: May 25 14:56:35 2019 GMT
 expire date: Oct  6 14:56:35 2020 GMT
 common name: localhost (matched)
 issuer: C=AU; ST=WA; L=Ellenbrook; O=Internet Widgits Pty Ltd; CN=Local Certificate
 SSL certificate verify ok. 

In the above, you can see the CA being loaded from the correct location (/etc/ssl/certs) and details about the certificate (Server certificate:).

You can now successfully run the new OrbitDB HTTP API with self-signed certificates on your development environment.

References

How to get HTTPS working in localhost development environment, secureend.com, https://reactpaths.com/how-to-get-https-working-in-localhost-development-environment-f17de34af046