This episode features a conversation between Research Hub’s co-founder and Head of Operations Patrick Joyce and Research Hub Community Lead Anton Lebed, moderated by SCRF’s Head of Operations, Eugene Leventhal.
- How can web3 technologies help incentivize healthy research behaviors and enable decentralized science?
- Traditional scientific publication has serious problems. The industry survives by charging subscribers and content creators for reviewing the work that they do. Useful data goes unpublished and therefore unused, research is often siloed, controversial results can be stifled, and too often fraud or majors errors often go unnoticed.
- Research Hub uses a tokenized economy to incentivize “healthy” research practices like open peer review, sharing data sets, and pre-printing journal papers. Tokenization can also reward creators of “hidden” value, like peer reviewers or idea generators.
- Growing a community of researchers is difficult and takes time. Many researchers are cautious about web3 and worried about straying away from traditional publication routes, given how competitive academic research is. Others are unfamiliar with IP, which can be difficult for open science platforms like Research Hub.
“We’ve been on the Ethereum mainnet since August 2020,” says Patrick Joyce, co-founder of Research Hub. “The main point of our token is to incentivize open access publishing and healthy research behavior in general.”
Joyce had started a PhD in molecular biology and was a year into medical school when he realized there were serious problems with the way that research was funded and how fruits of that research were distributed to the public. “It was a really crazy model. Scientific publishers charge content creators for the content they produce and they make subscribers pay on the backend.”
Using the Research Hub and its token, Joyce hopes to create a better, healthier research community by incentivizing pre-print sharing, open-access publishing, and proper accreditation for work done. Eventually, he hopes to break down the silos that exist between the different scientific disciplines. So far it’s been a difficult but rewarding journey.
“Luckily, in science there’s a mindset that you have to be an early adopter,” Anton Lebed, Research Hub’s community lead explains. “The early days were all about getting in touch with researchers. It’s not enough for something like this to be just good enough, for it to be useful it also has to be popular.”
Lebed, who is a Ph.D. student on the cusp of defending his thesis, was new to web3 when he started collaborating with Research Hub. “It took me a while to realize the benefits of web3,” he says. “But I came to realize that there are so many activities in science that aren’t traditionally rewarded: for example, peer review is rarely credited, generating ideas is not always credited and tends to happen behind the scenes. It would be nice to reward people in a systematic way for doing these things, and that’s exactly what web3 is so good at.”
Growing the community has been a slow process, although momentum is building after years of effort. One hurdle they’ve encountered is the research community’s lack of knowledge about intellectual property. Another is the perception of risk. Scientific research in academia is ruthlessly competitive, which discourages junior scientists–their target demographic–from experimenting with new publishing platforms.
“One of the biggest issues we’ve come across is convincing early career scientists this is worth their time,” says Joyce. “That it’s not a career risk. That they won’t get scooped. A lot of people are hesitant to [share their work as pre-prints]. So there’s a reasonable hesitance towards tokens and web3, and then taking a nontraditional path outside of academia.”
There remains a bit of a gulf between open science advocates within academia and decentralized scientific solutions like what Research Hub is offering. This gap is beginning to close, however, and as a new generation of researchers look for publishing venues, and Research Hub’s community continues to grow, DeSci will look ever more appealing.