Could Bitcoin technology help science?

Andy Extance at Nature: “…The much-hyped technology behind Bitcoin, known as blockchain, has intoxicated investors around the world and is now making tentative inroads into science, spurred by broad promises that it can transform key elements of the research enterprise. Supporters say that it could enhance reproducibility and the peer review process by creating incorruptible data trails and securely recording publication decisions. But some also argue that the buzz surrounding blockchain often exceeds reality and that introducing the approach into science could prove expensive and introduce ethical problems.

A few collaborations, including Scienceroot and Pluto, are already developing pilot projects for science. Scienceroot aims to raise US$20 million, which will help pay both peer reviewers and authors within its electronic journal and collaboration platform. It plans to raise the funds in early 2018 by exchanging some of the science tokens it uses for payment for another digital currency known as ether. And the Wolfram Mathematica algebra program — which is widely used by researchers — is currently working towards offering support for an open-source blockchain platform called Multichain. Scientists could use this, for example, to upload data to a shared, open workspace that isn’t controlled by any specific party, according to Multichain….

Claudia Pagliari, who researches digital health-tracking technologies at the University of Edinburgh, UK, says that she recognizes the potential of blockchain, but researchers have yet to properly explore its ethical issues. What happens if a patient withdraws consent for a trial that is immutably recorded on a blockchain? And unscrupulous researchers could still add fake data to a blockchain, even if the process is so open that everyone can see who adds it, says Pagliari. Once added, no-one can change that information, although it’s possible they could label it as retracted….(More)”.