In our Eurodoc interview series, we chat with early-career researchers and experts working on interesting projects and developing new tools for research and innovation in Europe.
In this interview, we talk with Alex Shkor who has co-founded and is developing an innovative new digital platform for funding, doing, publishing, and rewarding research.
Can you imagine a science that is totally open and accessible to the global scientific community and general public: where all research metadata and data is open; where collaboration across disciplines and countries happens instantaneously; where papers are written and reviewed openly and then published without embargoes in Open Access; and where researchers are financially and impactfully rewarded for all of their scientific activities?
Welcome to the new decentralised research platform DEIP! We started out as a team of decentralised systems scientists and professionals, who were working in Information Technology companies, and decided to fundamentally change the way science is funded, conducted, and rewarded so that researchers themselves co-determine the process. DEIP was founded in 2017 and is currently being beta-tested.
1. What is DEIP?
DEIP is an online decentralised research platform for and governed by researchers. The platform offers three essential features:
- Open Access publishing of research papers
- Open Peer Review of draft research papers
- Open Funding of research project applications
DEIP enables researchers to work together and assess research projects and papers in an open environment that rewards all of their scientific contributions. The platform is built on blockchain technology and consists of a decentralised network. This means that DEIP is neither owned by the DEIP team or any other centralised body. The platform is designed to be governed directly by the scientific community so that they can define the activities and future of the platform as well as distribute funding.
2. Why create such a platform?
We have built DEIP to make science more transparent and open to everyone. The infrastructure we have developed for DEIP introduces new innovative models for research collaboration, publishing, and funding. Our aim is to build a globally connected and decentrally governed scientific community, with all researchers having open access to research outputs and being rewarded for their various contributions.
We offer research project teams and individual researchers real-time support and management of their research data, papers, reviews, and funding channels. We also offer new ways to access and distribute funding, by letting researchers apply for and allocate funding for research projects and contributions, and by helping researchers crowdfund to develop new research projects. And we offer a new metric for assessing research quality, our Expertise Contribution Index (ECI), that lets the research community decide the significance and impact of research contributions.
3. How does DEIP work?
A key feature of the DEIP platform is the new rewards metric ECI. A high ECI means that a research output has been highly valued by the scientific community or that a project team or researcher is contributing significantly to the platform. The ECI can subsequently be used to evaluate excellent research projects or researchers for research funding allocated to the platform by research funders. The ECI is also directly connected to an internal currency within the platform which can be used to fund actual research projects via a linked cryptocurrency on the stock exchange.
DEIP and our ECI open up new opportunities for research and researchers. Usually, to make a decision on distributing a grant, a funder needs to gather a panel of experts to evaluate project applications. This procedure can last weeks if not months and involve substantial costs. With DEIP, a funder can use the ECI and source the community to quickly identify excellent projects and researchers and award funding. This improves both the transparency and efficiency of research funds distribution.
Another innovative feature of the DEIP platform is its system of smart contracts. A smart contract is a digital contract that securely transfers information and ensures the fulfillment of the terms of agreements between parties. For example, a DEIP smart contract ensures that the research grant will only be distributed when all obligatory requirements (such area of research, number of reviews, and ECI) have been met.
4. What are the next steps for DEIP?
Our current focus is to further develop and test the DEIP platform for different scientific stakeholders: funding agencies, research institutions, and researchers. DEIP has great potential to completely open up the research process and increase the transparency and fairness of the research funding system. The next major step for us is to run a beta test so that researchers can try out the platform and test the main workflows, including project team coordination, research management, peer reviewing of papers, and crowdfunding campaigns. This will enable us to adjust and improve the platform so that it is easier to use and much more useful for researchers.