title: Research Summary - Who is contributing to academic research on blockchain oracles? A bibliometric analysis
description: The researcher does a bibliometric analysis of academic papers related to blockchain oracles. The researcher goes on to report the findings from the analysis to show the general trends in oracle publishing.
Tags: oracles, smart contracts, bibliometric analysis
researcher: Giulio Caldarelli -
- The researcher took a broad sample of academic articles related to smart contracts, blockchains and oracles to investigate how oracles are being researched within academia.
- The researcher found that although oracles are vitally important for connecting real-world data to smart contracts, research focusing on oracles specifically was lacking relative to other types of blockchain/smart contract-related research.
- The researcher found that the publications he discovered came almost exclusively from within-university research, with only one inter-university publication out of the 111 papers analyzed.
- The researcher observed a lack of collaboration worldwide, though authors and institutions were working in similar directions. On the other hand, most of the areas of research are poorly addressed while others remain uncovered.
Core Research Question
Which institutions and individuals contributed the most to research on blockchain oracles within academia?
Caldarelli G. Who Is Contributing to Academic Research on Blockchain Oracles? A Bibliometric Analysis. Preprints.org; 2021. DOI: 10.20944/preprints202109.0135.v1.
- Blockchain Oracles:
- Oracle Theory - This category includes papers specifically focused on blockchain oracles either from a theoretical or a practical point of view.
- Oracle Applied - This category includes papers focused on real-world applications such as healthcare, finance, and business process management, providing a detailed analysis of the role of oracles in these fields with theoretical or experimental approaches.
The author uses a straightforward model of an oracle node as an intermediary aggregator between a data source and a smart contract.
- Data Source: A specific data set, metadata set, database or metadata repository from which data or metadata are available.
- Oracle Node: Each oracle node in a network evaluates another known node by two measures: action trust and recommendation trust.
Action trust refers to the probability that the evaluated node will perform the service or action with satisfactory quality for the evaluator.
Recommendation trust refers to the probability that the evaluated node will deliver correct recommendations about action trust of another node to the evaluator.
- Smart Contract: A term used to describe computer code that automatically executes all or parts of an agreement and is stored on a blockchain-based platform.
The author defines a system in which a blockchain has an oracle cryptographically sign a transaction in addition to the transaction initiator, in order to establish a third party approval mechanism. The author uses Figure 2 to contextualize how oracles are implemented in systems without Turing-completeness.
Main categories are further divided into subcategories belonging to Oracle Theory:
Architecture. With an empirical or theoretical approach, papers in this category perform analysis on the oracle framework to improve technical aspects, enlighten current challenges, and identify new avenues for research.
Proposal. These papers propose new oracle frameworks that may be implemented
in real-world applications. Those may still be at a conceptual or prototype stage.
- Oracle Problem. Those articles focus on the aspects related to the trustworthiness of
oracles and their limits to decentralization.
Oracle Applied subcategories such as Healthcare and Supply Chain are
intuitive, those that require clarifications are described here:
- Data Management. Articles concerning the transfer of data from the real world to the blockchain are included in the Oracle Theory main category. This field considers articles that analyze the access data management for reputation, privacy, or GDPR purposes. Cloud Computing related researches will be filed under their own category since they mainly concern data elaboration.
- Finance. This category includes articles that involve oracles applied in financial applications and those exploring timeliness and gas usage of transactions. Those concerning asset management on the blockchain are also included.
- IoT. This category includes papers that investigate oracles as efficient IoT systems but do not refer to a specific real-world application. A paper concerning IoT in the supply chain, for example, would instead be inserted into the Supply Chain and Traceability category.
The researcher approached the subject with five questions as the starting point for his bibliometric analysis:
RQ1) Which institutions contributed more to the research on blockchain oracles? RQ2) Who are the most impactful authors in blockchain oracle research? RQ3) Which one is the most common publication type, outlet, and publisher? RQ4) Is there any existing cooperation among universities and scholars? RQ5) What is the most and the least investigated area?
One of the researcher’s main goals was to parse out research on Oracles without using a protocol-specific definition which would by proxy limit the scope of the literature.
Additionally, the “Oracle Software Company,” having a significant presence in the realm of networking, made it necessary for the author to actively exclude publications that were about case-studies of “Oracle Software.”
The researcher was aware that the definition of Oracles within the blockchain and smart contract space had a very specific connotation without a strict and accepted definition, and treated the bibliometric analysis as having a tentative definition of blockchain/smart contract oracles with non-exhaustive representation as a general example.
As there are not many real-world examples of applied oracles, the author wanted to make sure the study was not disproportionately weighted by the nascent nature of the industry-applied oracles.
The researcher included academic articles, but did not include white papers, opinion posts, or news articles.
The researcher used Blockchain and Oracle as keywords in TITLE-ABS-KEY of Scopus database and identified 205 articles.
Additional strings were added on the WoS database to yield 119 results.
Google Scholar yielded more than 10,000 entries and the researcher decided to limit that to 300 articles using the top 30 pages of results.
The researcher excluded papers that discussed “random oracles” or “test oracles” as those are not the same types of oracles that the researcher was searching for.
Concerning contributions and metrics, it emerged that Xu Xiwei was the most impactful author in the field and has published the two most cited papers. Khalifa University, with 12 publications, is the most productive institution.
Oracle Architecture, Problem, and Proposal articles had the most publications within the subcategories of Oracle publications.
Additionally, the author highlighted the most common keywords associated with oracle publications and came up with the following categories: Architecture, Oracle Problem, Proposal, Finance, Data Management, IoT, BPM, Supply Chain & Traceability, AI, Cloud Computing, and Healthcare.
The aforementioned categories reflected the intersection of keywords searched and relevant articles returned, as the researcher used more keywords than those referenced in the results.
It should also be noted that the majority of the papers fall in the “Oracle Theory” category, as there is not a significant enough source of data to provide a balancing number of “Oracle Applied” publications.
The most cited papers came from a few select contributors:
China, the UAE, Italy and Germany were the countries with the highest number of Blockchain Oracle publications:
Discussion and Key Takeaways
- The researcher shows that a small number of researchers have a wide influence on Oracle Theory.
- Researchers like Xiwei Xu have a prolific record of publication and thus have great influence over the direction of theory within the Blockchain Oracle space.
- As conference papers have been heavily referenced, it is relevant to ensure that collaboration occurs between universities on conference papers.
- The research showed that while there was a significant amount of collaboration within universities, there was almost no between-university collaboration, with the researcher only finding one article of the 111 identified which contained between-university collaboration.
This work highlights the need for cooperation between universities to increase so that ideas are not needlessly retread. As there is an impetus to keep research private until it has been published, this article shows that there is a potential to accelerate the evolution of research on oracles by coordinating different schools to work on the same subject instead of having them siloed away from other research institutions.