Although science has always been an integral part of human progress, it had always been constrained by centralized institutions and structures before decentralized science came to the rescue.
After the scientific revolution, institutions like the Royal Society and the Academy of Sciences were founded. However, despite the fact that they have played a crucial role in coordinating and promoting science, they have also stifled creativity and innovation.
A good example is the biotech industry which started thriving in the 1970s after pursuing unconventional ideas outside the traditional academic research institutions. Previously, the centralized academia structure made it extremely difficult for scientists to take risks pursuing unconventional ideas; something that hindered progress.
In the current times, there is a paradigm shift towards full decentralization, especially after the introduction of the internet and later blockchain technology. Institutions, companies, and startups are launching outside major hubs, sharing lab spaces, and launching open-source protocols and resources.
Decentralized science has brought a range of benefits in addressing the current global challenges including the changing tide in funding trends, the growing globalized workforce, and rising costs in the real estate market among others.
Benefits of Decentralized science
Below are some of the benefits of decentralization, especially to the field of science:
1. New funding opportunities
In the past, startups, institutions, firms, and companies depended on institutions like the government and foundations for research funding and capital.
But with the introduction of the internet and blockchain technology, crowdfunding platforms have been created and scientists and researchers can now directly get funding from the public. This allows them to bypass the bureaucracy of the traditional funding methods meaning they are able to get funds more quickly and at cheaper rates.
Besides, a community of investors and innovators can create a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) like the Science DAO where they can vote on the projects to fund. The Science DAO uses NFTs pegged on startups benefiting both investors and scientists/innovators. Investors get a chance of investing in early-stage startups while scientists/innovators get access to funds from the investors.
2. Freedom to explore new ideas and take risks
When scientists are not tied up by the traditional institutional constraints, they are able to venture into unconventional ideas, which in most cases result in new inventions.
In addition, decentralization provides a more open and next-level collaborative approach for scientists and innovators. For instance, entrepreneurs are currently using platforms like GitHub to share data and collaborate on projects. Other platforms like Perlara PBC have enabled the creation of teams of decentralized consultants and scientists who can then work together on a project-by-project basis.
3. Improved efficiency
Since decentralization cuts the bureaucratic processes that innovators and scientists had to go through with the traditional institutions, they can now do their work more freely and quickly.
Also, a decentralized model is able to respond more quickly to new developments and changes compared to the traditional models.
For example, the Phage Directory (PhagesDB), a decentralized database of bacteriophage genomes developed in response to the increasing threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, allows scientists to quickly and easily search for phage genomes that can be used to fight these drug-resistant bacteria.
4. Improved access to resources
Decentralized communities allow scientists to freely solicit the resources that they need without minding any bureaucratic process as would be the case with traditional models.
Besides, there is a wide range of decentralized platforms that have already been created to provide access to resources like data, development tools, and facilities.
A good example is the Open Science Framework (OSF), which is a decentralized platform that allows scientists to share data and collaborate on projects.
With the advancement of science, scientists are being forced to go beyond centralized institutions like universities and government agencies to access funding and support and decentralized science is proving to be a game-changer.
Decentralizing science allows for a greater diversity of voices and perspectives. It has also proved to be more efficient and can respond quickly to changes.
Lastly, decentralization increases public engagement with science thereby increasing accountability and transparency thus building trust between scientists and the public.
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