Decentralizing science: Towards an interoperable open peer review ecosystem using blockchain


“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”

― Angela Y. Davis

Decentralizing science: Towards an interoperable open peer review ecosystem using blockchain

Ámbar Tenorio, Elena Pérez Tirador, Antonio A. Sánchez-Ruiz, Samer Hassan

Scientific publication and its Peer Review system strongly rely on a few major industry players controlling most journals (e.g. Elsevier), databases (e.g. Scopus) and metrics (e.g. JCR Impact Factor), while keeping most articles behind paywalls. Critics to such system include concerns about fairness, quality, performance, cost, unpaid labor, transparency, and accuracy of the evaluation process. The Open Access movement has tried to provide free access to the published research articles, but most of the aforementioned issues remain. In such context, decentralized technologies such as blockchain offer an opportunity to experiment with new models for scientific production and dissemination relying on a decentralized infrastructure, aiming to tackle multiple of the current system shortcomings. This paper makes a proposal for an interoperable decentralized system for an open peer review ecosystem, relying on emerging distributed technologies such as blockchain and IPFS. Such system, named “Decentralized Science” (DecSci), aims to enable a decentralized reviewer reputation system, which relies on an Open Access by-design infrastructure, together with transparent governance processes. Two prototypes have been implemented: a proof-of-concept prototype to validate DecSci’s technological feasibility, and a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) prototype co-designed with journal editors. In addition, three evaluations have been carried out: an exploratory survey to assess interest on the issues tackled; two sets of interviews to confirm both the main problems for editors and to validate the MVP prototype; and a cost analysis of the main operations, both execution cost and actual price. Additionally, the paper discusses the multiple interoperability challenges such proposal faces, including an architecture to tackle them. This work finishes with a review of some of the open challenges that this ambitious proposal may face.