Cryptocurrency for scientific research

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

Cryptocurrency for scientific research

Frankl Open Science, an Australian organisation co-founded by cognitive scientist Dr Jon Brock and blockchain veteran Peter Godbolt, is carrying out, what is touted to be, the world’s first cryptocurrency airdrop for scientists and science students.

Up to 700 million tokens will be distributed free to science undergrads, postgrads, PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers across all fields of science, with the goal to empower the research community with incentives for sharing scientific data. All scientists and science students can register for the airdrop here.

“We’re developing apps to integrate blockchain into the scientific workflow,” said Peter Godbolt.

“And we’re releasing a new ERC20 token on the Ethereum blockchain to incentivise data sharing. The bulk of the tokens will be made available during our July token sale, but we want to give scientists the first opportunity to be involved.”

Airdrops are widely used by cryptocurrency projects to generate interest in their tokens. Typically, anyone can sign up for free tokens. The Frankl airdrop is unusual in targeting a particular group.

“We want to put Frankl tokens in the hands of the people who will use them to advance science,” said Godbolt. “The Frankl airdrop will help us build a community of scientists working on current research, and future scientists who are still developing their skills.”

The timing of the airdrop coincides with a growing international movement towards ‘Blockchain for Research’ with over 15 new ventures aiming to tackle problems in scientific funding, recording of hypotheses, peer review, replication and in Frankl’s case, scientific data.

The team behind Frankl believe that science has been slow to adopt both existing and emerging technologies that could enhance the value of research. “There is huge potential for faster, more accurate and more applied science,” said Brock.

“Blockchain has the potential to offer secure, immutable and persistent data records and determine who has access to that data. And we think that a cryptocurrency for science can offer incentives that drive research participation, transparency and collaboration. But it’s not the only technology that can benefit science.

“For example, in my own field, many of us are still carrying out cognitive assessments using paper and pen tests, particularly in clinical settings. This limits the ability of researchers to collect many different data points in a single interaction, and the speed and reliability of data analysis. Moving to app-based assessments could allow more efficient and accurate testing. And these apps can send data back to research from clinical environments. This is a big focus for us at the moment.

“Another part of the problem is that scientists are all running their experiments on different systems, with different protocols for data collection. This makes it really hard to share data, run cross-institutional analyses, pool different datasets, discover existing data and apply it to new areas of research. We’re working on standard protocols for data collection, and built-in data sharing options. It will mean that researchers don’t have to think hard about cleaning up their data before making it available to others — it’s done for them, and they’re rewarded for it.”

Frankl is collaborating with a number of researchers including neuropsychologist Professor Greg Savage from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders at Macquarie University. Savage works in both clinical and research capacities to create better diagnoses for people with dementia and related diseases, and has created a new diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s Disease which will form one of the first Frankl data collection apps.

“This is the kind of project that’s been waiting to happen for a long time,” said Savage. “A lot of the clinically based testing that’s done is within a framework that’s longstanding, normatively based and like a large ship it takes ages to turn in any new direction... If a platform was actually designed to be based on data sharing, there would be rapid advances.”

Image credit: ©

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