Adding a DeSci Section to SCRF?

Overview

Decentralized Science (DeSci) is a topic that has seen a strong growth in interest in the first part of 2022. There are a lot of exciting projects and activities coming together to explore how to improve science with web3. As part of that, there’s a question of where some long tail discussions around DeSci can take place. This presents the SCRF community with an opportunity to add a section to the forum to house some of this conversation. This would also entail needing to bring on additional resources to support the engagement and moderation for this section.

Questions

The idea came up to add a section on the forum for ‘Decentralized Science’ or ‘DeSci.’ As part of this, we need to consider:

  • Should we add a section to the forum for this topic
  • If yes, what types of posts do we want (are thoughts on desci ok? Project overviews? How are you using web3? What problems are being solved in DeSci?)
  • What types of posts are not allowed?
    • Community discussions
    • Governance decisions
  • What additional resources need to be added to ensure that this section remains active?

The benefits

There are two ways to explore the benefits, one is to the DeSci community and the other is to the SCRF community. For the DeSci community, this could provide a forum with operational support related to it to house long-tail discussions around DeSci. This could also provide an opportunity to extend some writing grants to DeSci community members and could extend an opportunity or two for part-time work supporting the DeSci section.

The drawbacks

Two main drawbacks come to mind. One is that this is an application domain of web3, not a research domain area. Would adding a section on the forum that calls for non research related content too distracting from our core mission? Is there a way to provide clarity on what content is sought after on the forum to find a middle ground?

The other is whether this adds operational strain to the content or engagement teams. If yes, is it possible to bring on one or two people for part-time grants to support engagement or content?

My personal view

I know I’m biased, but I do think that providing this resource could be valuable to both the broad DeSci community and to the SCRF community. I think it would make sense to engage 1-2 people to support with this new section (already speaking to one person on it). I also think we would have to provide some focus to posts (e.g. what is DeSci, what problems are being addressed, how are web3 tools being used). I do NOT think general DeSci governance decisions (aka should the DeSci community plan something for a specific conference).

Discussion

What do people think about the above questions?

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Considering DeFi is more mature and we do not have a section dedicated to that, I would be wary of dedicating an entire section to DeSci. I would lean towards creating a tag and accumulating enough work in that area to validate the need for an entire category. I’m not sure DeSci is yet mature enough to warrant an entire section on the forum.

I am not yet certain what “DeSci” is beyond “science + Web3”. In that context, it would make sense to add a "Web3 section and make “DeSci” a subsection of Web3. I have not seen a clear enough definition of DeSci that goes beyond just the self-referential “decentralized science”. Until DeSci gets a more clear definition, I would assert that it might be a considerable danger to dedicate many resources to something that may never come to agreement on its own definition.

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I think this would be a great subcategory in the forum (maybe in governance?), but I worry it might be too specific for a new category, given how technology focused the rest of the forum is. And generally echo Larry’s concerns above. If this is part of a general change toward more intercategory discussion, I think it would be a great first step… but DeFi, NFTs etc. would be more immediately pertienent.

As for posts, I think case studies and interviews of existing projects would be really interesting to add to our existing summaries and discussions. For example Brian Armstrong’s new think tank might be something to look at, especially if we can pull him in (he’s also involved with ResearchHub, if I’m not mistaken). Overall it would be nice to see more discussions generally.

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I searched “DeSci” on the forum, and got 7 results: Search results for ‘desci’ - Smart Contract Research Forum

Conversely, I searched “DeFi” and got 50+ results: Search results for ‘defi’ - Smart Contract Research Forum

“Web3” yielded 41 results: Search results for ‘web3’ - Smart Contract Research Forum

“NFT” yielded 47 results: Search results for ‘Nft’ - Smart Contract Research Forum

Just purely based on the numbers, it would not seem logical to add a DeSci category if not intending to add categories for subjects that have more presence on the forum.

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TLDR

  • I think we should have a DeSci Section because it helps us be involved in a community that aligns with our interests and mission
  • The category should have similar content types as other categories to avoid some of the downsides, but there are some other types of post we should encourage in that section.

Good observations, @Larry_Bates, but I think I disagree a little on whether or not a space needs to be mature in order for it to be a section on the forum. I appreciate the call out to the defi space though. I have some thoughts on that as well, but I’ll try to keep them organized below!

Why DeSci Before XYZ Category?

I have been spending time thinking about the forum categories lately and some of the observations that @Larry_Bates brought up are part of those thoughts. The initial forum categories were created in late 2020 as an initial attempt to organize some of the emerging overall topics in web3. Obviously, such an initial system is not going to keep up with an industry that moves as quickly as ours does. There is some attempt to capture this quick movement through the Terms Glossary and Content Tags thread where our community suggests needed additions to the forum like a DeFi tag. Tags alone aren’t always great information organizing tools, however. It does seem like there is need for a community discussion about our categories overall and potentially a need to do some reorganizing of them. That seems like a growing priority based on what both @jmcgirk and @Larry_Bates pointed out. I look forward to being involved in that effort.

I think that effort can happen concurrent to the adding of DeSci as a category to the forum. I am also interested in adding a Community section to the forum, but I don’t see that as getting in the way of any of the reorganization work being discussed above. As @eleventh pointed out above, there is a growing community interested in DeSci and SCRF has an opportunity here to not only be a space where DeSci can discuss and mature, but the intersection between web3 and DeSci seems to strongly align with SCRF’s mission of advancing web3 research.

In my mind, having a section on the forum creates the space for DeSci to mature as a field and application. I wouldn’t want our forum to only be a place where the most highly researched sub-fields of web3 get representation. Many of these emerging trends have need for a meeting space between “industry and academia.” I think by having a section on our forum for DeSci, we have an opportunity not to just be involved in exploring this emerging trend, but we also have an opportunity to shape and influence it. To the questions in @eleventh’s original post, we as a community would have the ability to set some types of guiding sections and constraints on content in the category.

Structuring the DeSci Category

In @eleventh original post, it was asked:

Being an application and not a domain does mean, to me at least, that there should be some differences in the DeSci category than some of the other research categories. That said, I think there is a lot of similarity that we would want to retain and encourage in order to help guide discussions in a “SCRFy” direction.

Areas of Similarity

  • About the DeSci category
    ** Each category on the forum should have an about section. I think there is more to do with these in the future, but minimally there should be something like About the Consensus category.
  • Notable Works in DeSci
    ** This is an incredibly important part of every category, and I think that much more so for DeSci. Many of the questions being wrestled with in the DeSci community have notable works throughout history. “Science” is not some monolithic system. There are notable works in the philosophy of science that would be valuable to have access to as well as the application of web3 solutions to DeSci that are foundational reading for people learning about and doing work in the DeSci space as well as the web3 space.
  • Key Problems in DeSci
    ** This is a post type that I particularly like because it seems so mission aligned with SCRF. I actually thought it was part of the needed to have in the different categories already, but it somewhat looks like @lnrdpss may have created this of his own accord in the Auditing category. Regardless of the history of the post type, I think this is a requirement for me for the DeSci category if we are going to adopt it. It gives people a central space to concentrate on what are the next hurdles and might help avoid the downsides of “off topic” conversation that @eugene identified in the original post. @jringo recently posted essentially a think piece that I think starts to populate this section already.
  • Research Summaries/Discussion Posts
    ** These are essential for SCRF, so I think it almost goes without saying these would exist in the DeSci category. Just the other day, @UmarKhanEth referenced a peer review study during a community call that could heavily influence decisions about mechanism design and approaches to DeSci/Decentralized peer review. I think that should be summarized and I would like to discuss it on forum. I like the paper, but there are areas to discuss. Exactly what our forum is for.

Areas of Difference

  • Experiments in DeSci
    ** DeSci gives us an opportunity to actively run and trial “experiments” right here on the forum. This is not something we really get to achieve in many of the other research categories on the forum. Specifying that a thread is an experiment in how to do something, like peer review, would make sense to have a specific home on the forum.
  • Project Updates
    ** This isn’t really that dissimilar, but I am putting it here because I believe we would see more activity like this. DeSci is likely to be a little more project oriented as it grows and matures as a field, so having updates on projects in the category makes sense. We have some models for this on the forum already. For example, @Mr.Nobody recently did an update post on a project they are working on. There is likely some refinement we could do, but I think this would be a valuable type of content for a DeSci section.

There are probably some other types of content we would want to encourage in the DeSci category if we adopt it that I would love to continue to flesh out. It might even help us think about content in the other categories as well.

To me, if we had content type expectations like these, then we would be able to avoid the downsides mentioned in the posts above while also being involved in and influencing DeSci. I think it would attract an active community to forum while also helping SCRF accomplish its mission.

I hope this post gets as much engagement as the SourceCred one did, by the way. This is a great discussion to have!

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My initial though is absolutely add a DeSci section, but how would it be used? DeSci in my mind is a marketing term. So are we posting about other DeSci projects? Are we having conversations about DeSci conceptually? Is the DeSci category only to be used to discuss meta-analysis? I’m not seeing what kind of content would fall there.

@eleventh can you elaborate a bit? Or give examples of content?

This may be a good category to start discussing overall organizing of the DeSci community; decentralized peer review; or could be where DeSci research itself (from DAOs) is published.

  • Should we add a section to the forum for this topic - only if we are defining how it should be used. I’m not intuitively seeing what kind of content would go there.

  • If yes, what types of posts do we want (are thoughts on desci ok? Project overviews? How are you using web3? What problems are being solved in DeSci?) - I really see DeSci as a marketing/informational/educational term. I think this goes to the larger question of who SCRF wants to be within the DeSci community, and make the section about that! What is the strategy here?

  • What types of posts are not allowed? - Follow existing SCRF rules here. No shilling, etc.

  • What additional resources need to be added to ensure that this section remains active? - May make more work for the Moderation team (depending on usage) but will need folks monitoring the category in the same way. May be a good category for cross-pollitators to have domain over.

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I’m in favor of adding a DeSci section to SCRF because doing so would be mission-aligned, builds on existing relationships, and prevents FOMO.

Mission Aligned

SCRF’s goal of connecting academia and industry to make Web3 research more actionable is in harmonic resonance with what DeSci is attempting to do. DeSci is trying to make scientific and academic learnings more accessible to people outside of universities. It also hopes to allow those without credentials to be a greater part of discovering new knowledge. This includes independent researchers, industry experts, and crypto punks.

By creating and scaling online networks of researchers based not on degrees but on contribution, DeSci hopes to create a collaborative system that delivers on the promises of Open Science. Some great examples of what this could look like are covered in this TED Talk by Dr. Michael Nielsen (who also authored Reinventing Discovery: the New Era of Networked Science). One notable advantage DeSci has that Open Science did not is cryptocurrency’s ability to align incentives between independent actors. This could play a significant role in solving some of the problems we face today.

Building on Existing Relationships

SCRF played big roles in the last two (and also first two!) organized DeSci conferences as a host and speaker. In doing so, SCRF created relationships with organizations building a new possible infrastructure for research to occur. This includes visitors to our community call like ResearchHub, Ants-Review, and DeSci Labs. By creating a DeSci category, we invite organizations like these to deepen our relationship by sharing their thoughts, questions, and results.

Preventing FOMO

DeSci seems like a far-off and sometimes intangible goal. Yet, what if it works? What if the inspired individuals in this space succeed in making a networked system of science built on incentives aligned using smart contracts? What if SCRF does not play a role in making this possible?

This site is an example of a successful, engaged forum where Web3 research is discussed. Now is the time to build inroads and bridges which further the mission. To me, it feels natural for SCRF to foster a space where people can have conversations about how to make decentralized research possible and where the output of that research can be shared.

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Timing wise, there isn’t much D content on the forum yet. IMAO make content before creating a category not the other way around.

Can we start from

  1. Creating a community section, and posting whatever DeSci content to that section

Ref:

  1. If there is any DeSci content, we create a tag for it
  2. Once there is a regular influx of content, we come back and discuss if we want a category for it

I currently see no objection to the fact that there are a lot of content that deserve a better category to be in. It’s also the case that as web3 is evolving so quickly that this should be the first and not the last debate we have on whether to have a category on.

Therefore we need a sustainable process of deciding that category X deserves a section to itself, category Y only gets a tag etc. My suggestion is everyone starts posting from the community category and we move on based on moderation efforts.

Note: I see a lot of comments above expressing the interest of creating a category to incentivize content. I’m unaware that having a category on the forum is a perquisite for content creation. If you are interested in influencing content direction to ask for more resources to create DeSci content, consider doing a Research Improvement Proposal.

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My 2 cents:

.01: Make tags instead of categories. The forum is currently structured with categories related to root principles of DLT. Mechanism design, consensus layers, cryptography, oracles, governance, and scaling. Add to those categories.

If I develop a mechanism design based on solving a problem in science, I should add it to mechanism and design and tag it “science”. If I develop a mechanism design based on solving a problem in finance I should post it in the same category and tag it “finance”. And so on with all the fields in which DLT is relevant. The different designs are probably actually related and the authors are more likely to interact if they post in the same category. I should be able to search “science” if I want to find DeSci related discussions.

.02: Stay away from “DeSomething” terms for headers. It’s marketing and language simplification for discussions. It brings to mind money and profit before technology.

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In your thread that contains key questions that DeSci could address, my initial response was more inclined with what is being proposed here. I think with the list of questions that you have created as a starting point, answering some of those questions about DeSci with tagged summaries could go a long way to validate the need for an entire category dedicated to that subject. I do tend to agree that we should stay away from “De” anything as a main category in preference of tags. I think if people that were inclined to contribute could make it more of a community effort so a single person doesn’t have to do all the content creation.

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I absolutely agree. I think we need more DeSci content before considering a category, unless we’re planning to have special grants applications or some other new form of content in there.

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TL;DR: DeSci and SCRF have considerable overlap in the field of Meta-Science. Topics like Peer review, publication, funding, open access, reproducibility, replicability and more are going to be critical for both spaces in the future. Let’s work together to build out these concepts in Web3


Hi all,

First time SCRF poster from the DeSci community. I just want to start out by saying thank you. Regardless of whether or not a DeSci section is the ultimate decision, we all appreciate Eugene and the SCRF community. The DeSci community would not have been able to grow this quickly without SCRF. We recognize and appreciate everything you’ve done so far.

To the points @zube.paul and @ UmarKhanEth have made, there is considerable overlap between DeSci’s direction and SCRF’s mission. DeSci and SCRF are focusing on flip-sides of the same coin. DeSci aims to use Web3 technologies to build better science. SCRF aims to use scientific practices to build a better Web3. Perhaps a way to join these two missions would be shifting discussion from a DeSci category to a meta-science category?

Here are a few discussion topics (in addition to what @zube.paul already mentioned) that would benefit both SCRF and DeSci within those parameters:

  • Replicability and Reproducibility: A better system of science needs to focus first and foremost on creating and promoting replicable, reproducible science. The concepts and technologies being created in DeSci will be a catalyst for Web3 research. We can work together to build the systems and incentivize this behavior
  • Open Access: Web3 is the perfect place to talk about the implementation of open access principles. Numerous projects are working on this concept in DeSci as we speak (for example @jringo and his work on Gridcoin). SCRF’s Web3 research is going to need accessible information and DeSci is building those tools. SCRF using and providing guidance during that development would be invaluable
  • Peer Review: A better system for both science and Web3 needs to have peer review at the center. Right now, Web3 research is mostly presented through blog posts. It works for now but is not a scalable process moving forward. This could be a place to discuss best practices for technologically enabled peer review
  • Publication: New technologies create new ways of disseminating information. SCRF has the potential to be a pioneer of new publication methodologies as Web3 researcher are more accepting of a new innovative system. DeSci tooling can be at the center of this. The DeSci community could have a lot to contribute to these conversations
  • Funding: Concepts like micro-grants and impact certificates are just a few interesting directions that Funding in Web3 for scientific research could follow. This is a topic that will be important to Web3 research as it scales. SCRF can be the cutting edge of those discussions
  • Theory of Change: This section can be used to answer the question “What impact can Web3 Science have?”. Having DeSci and SCRF contributing to a Theory of Change document together will create a more robust hypothesis with a broader, more complete vision. It can serve as the investment thesis for both groups in the future
  • Meta-Science Projects: Updates on projects in the DeSci community focused on building meta-science tooling. GridCoin, ResearchHub, DeSci Labs and many others are going to be relevant for SCRF as they facilitate research into Web3. It would be good to keep tabs on them
  • Onboarding Scientists: How do we go about onboarding Web2 scientists into Web3 efficiently. Both DeSci and SCRF need the brilliant minds of Web3 to help us solve problems. This section can facilitate discussion on standard practices for onboarding scientists into Web3 for both groups

Just a couple thoughts here. Hopefully it gives a better picture of what this category could be.

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I think that adding a category will simplify and encourage some content production around DeSci.

The suggestions that @zube.paul has made could be a good starting point, using Notable works to create foundations as previously done, but with topics a bit more open than in existing categories such as Key Problems, Experiments, Project updates etc.

We can, for example, easily ask existing DeSci projects to come to summarize their concepts but also to come together to define key problems or topics/categories that need to be discussed by the community.

An interesting topic could also be the list of projects started and curated by @eleventh , this list was disseminated and used across the DeSci community and I think it can be a good vector/overview of the ecosystem to engage various discussions, identify potential sectors (or lacking sectors) in DeSci.

I agree that it could also deviate from SCRF’s first concepts but I think this is a good opportunity to capitalize on the already done work (conferences etc.) and the synergy around DeSci. Of course we have to provide some templates/guidelines (as discussed during a community call) to avoid project shilling etc but I think this could be a good mix between industry and academic as, for now, the focus of the forum is a bit more on vulgarization of academic publications than discussions between both sides leading to innovations.

As raised by Paul, the discussion on Sourcecred was a good example of how the SCRF community can instigate/discuss the application of an industry tool to a specific problem.

It could also be the chance for the DeSci community to highlight the difference with the existing concepts of Open Science and help to remove the hyper-financialization/speculation from the discussion.

I don’t know how easy it is concerning the Discourse tool and the re-organization of posts, but we may also iterate on categories to see if creating a category is really encouraging content production or not.

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I echo a lot of what’s been said about wanting to see more DeSci content on the forum. I would like to mention that of the 12 existing categories, 4 of them have 8 or less topics within (Consensus, Scaling, Cryptography, Grant Proposals).

In addiction to being a place where existing threads could be gathered, while we add content, a new DeSci category would be a useful place for us to house the Open Peer Review Project we’re running. We want authors and reviewers engaging with one another in public and creating threads on this forum would be a great place to do that. I’m not sure what category we could put these topics if not DeSci or Metascience.

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In response to that, I am of the mind that the categories that have not had much activity should be removed. There was an original intention of using a coverage map to diversify content across those categories, but that initiative sort of fell to the wayside.

Concerning a general category to capture peer review, I would be wary of trying to have a catch-all for open peer review in that there are going to be different types of research being done; and using one forum to capture all those peer reviews will eventually become unnavigable. Academic articles are usually categorized by subject matter or the tags which the author has chosen to describe the content of the research. A “catch-all” peer-review/desci may work initially but it would quickly become inadequate to capture the nuances associated with different types of research.

Out the gate, if research involves human subjects it will be completely different than something that is just looking at data that is gathered. Further, is the peer-review taking place on Github or the forum? If the peer-review is actually taking place on Github, it feels unnecessarily redundant to reproduce the entire process on the forum for the sake of perceived transparency when Github is already transparent. Is the forum meant to capture the post-mortem on the peer review, or the peer review itself? I’m not entirely sure how the open peer review would be captured in the forum based on what has been presented so far.

Ultimately, we do have some content categorization issues that need to be addressed. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t add DeSci altogether, but I do believe that if we add DeSci we may need to remove other categories and additionally add others such as DeFi or NFTs to accurately represent the forum content. If categorization is not making indexing and access easier, it makes it more difficult. I’m not sure the current categorization is the “best” it could be, and that is an entire conversation that seems to be more necessary as the organization evolves.

I just don’t want to “add a DeSci” section when this is clearly an opportunity to reorganize categories around content with the understanding that the original content categories were themselves experimental. I am not sure why the DeFi, NFT, and Web3 categories would not be implemented simultaneously if there is going to be one new category without addressing the old categories.

Are we using categories to articulate areas which deserve attention, or using categories to articulate what SCRF is going to actively cover? At this stage in the organization’s development, if we do not have a clear logic as to what our categories represent, then it will be difficult to actually come to a logical decision on whether a category should be added or not. In other words, do our categories represent the industry or represent our coverage goals?

That should be clear before we can really have a sincere and logical outcome to this debate.

To be clear, I’m NOT against “adding a DeSci category”. I am against “inconsistent usage of categorization”.

One last thing: I am not sure our categories reflect “academic” categorization and are more in line with industry categories. It is not a huge problem to have industry-focused categories; however if our larger mission is to connect industry and academia then continuing to use industry jargon instead of intermixing academic jargon risks ostracizing academics. I understand there is an impetus to experiment where there are perceived problems in academia, however completely disregarding academic jargon for industry jargon is not necessarily the best response.

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This detail convinces me that a category might be the way to go. The highlighted topics could be tags within the category. I also agree that categories should be consistent, so I’m not convinced DeSci as a category fits in with the currently layout. I think it depends on what the goals of the forum are.

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My understanding from all the replies above is that no one is against adding DeSci to the forum, however, thoughts differ on the where, when and how.

Where
Should it be a section, a category or a tag?
Do we have any post on the forum that explains what makes up a section, a category or a tag? I know there is an attempt in the Terms Glossary and Content Tags post, but perhaps a more comprehensive explanation of how sections, categories and tags come to be. @zube.paul already talks extensively about why this organization/reorganization is needed at this time. I also noticed the words ‘section’ and ‘category’ being used interchangeably. More reason for clarity on what makes up a section, a category and a tag.

When
Is now the right time? Considering DeSci is still a budding area. And just as @Larry_Bates highlighted, we probably have other topics that need more attention. (That was some great data analysis by the way!)

I agree that now could be the right time, in order for SCRF to have an opportunity to shape and direct discussions in the fledging area.

How
This should be easy to sort once the where and how are sorted. This means considering how DeSci content is presented on the forum. @jmcgirk made great suggestions like interviews, research summaries, and generally content that aligns with SCRF’s mission. @zube.paul has also highlighted more content types like project updates, ‘key problems’, etc.

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@eleventh, please could you explain what you mean by an application domain and research domain. It seems a paradox to me in that doesn’t research lead to applications of the findings/solutions from the research and application leads to further research and on and on? This is why case study summaries are accepted on the forum?

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As several people have said above, terms in the crypto/web3 “space” tend to be fragile, imprecise, impermanent, and often blatantly marketing-inspired, and “DeSci” doesn’t seem exempt from this. Further, even if “DeSci” were a term for the ages (not likely), slicing a forum into many root categories usually indicates a flawed taxonomy.

After reading all the comments above, I think @eleventh’s original question (echoed by @Larry_Bates and others) captures it best for me: The thing presently called “DeSci” is the result of applying web3 techniques to scientific inquiry—which includes all the implied commitments to “greater fairness” in organization, governance, rewards, ownership, etc.

Therefore, for this forum, “DeSci” is clearly not a root category. It makes better sense to create a DeSci tag, accumulate relevant content under that tag, and revisit the issue in a year or two.

As has also been mentioned above, the deeper question is whether our existing root categories make sufficient sense. Do “Tooling and Languages” and “Mechanism Design” really exist at the same level as “Cryptography”? If our mission is to be a conduit for research between the academy and industry, then “Cryptography” makes as little sense as a category for “Computerization.”

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Maybe we need an application category or something like that, I’ve also long advocated for a hardware category even though we don’t get much research in that area, I’ve been told that there’s plenty coming down the pipe. @cipherix what do you think? Should DeSci get a separate category?

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