The future of Science Funding

Each year, over 2 trillion US Dollars are spent on academic research globally.

Researchers within the same field compete for research funds by writing grant applications to funding agencies. Funders rely mainly on grant applications when selecting the eligible scientists and the best research projects to be funded. These grant applications are in turn based on research published in articles by the applying scientist. Experts in the field are then asked to review the grant applications. When considering the serious deficiencies in today’s publishing system, it becomes clear that reviewers do not have sufficient data to make informed decisions. Considering that only 10% of research data is published, the majority of work remains in lab journals. Research data which has led to negative results or replications are not accepted for publication by journals in general. This has lead to two major problems when it comes to funding research. First, funders spend millions on research that is not validated. And second, their return on investment is very low since most research conducted remains inaccessible and unpublished in lab journals of scientists.

Funders are becoming aware of these issues and are changing their policies.

Research institutes and funders are launching their own repositories demanding that researchers publish with open access. The European Commission’s Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU research and innovation programme with €80 billion of funding available. In the Horizon 2020 guidelines it is stipulated that all research funded by this project needs to be open access. The European Commission’s reasons to make all data open access is to build on previous research result, encourage collaboration, and minimize repeating work. This accelerates progress and engages citizens and society.

However, when it comes to the decision of where to publish, the perceptions of researchers is still lagging behind.

Particularly in Europe, the majority of researchers still choose to publish in closed journals with high impact factors. It seems that many scientists are mistrustful of the fact that funders and grant reviewers disregard impact factors when measuring the success and quality of research. A survey, of 22,000 academic researchers conducted by Nature, shows that the reputation of a journal is the most important factor for scientists when choosing where to publish. It also shows that scientists believe that the most important factor that contributes to a journal’s reputation is impact factor. The journal impact factor was developed as a tool to help librarians to decide on which journals to purchase and to measure the quality of the published research articles.

Using impact factor as a metric to measure the quality of a research paper has many limitations. Most importantly, it does not correlate with the quality of the research paper.

To improve how research is assessed, DORA (Declaration on Research Assessment) was developed in 2012. The declaration recommends the elimination of journal impact factors when funding or promoting researchers; furthermore, that the actual research should be assessed. DORA encourages funders to espouse a value of high quality content of research over simple journal metrics like impact factor. Some funders are starting to change their policies, and institutes, such as UCL which is launching their own publishing platform, are implementing new structures to make research accessible, and to change the way that it is conducted.

However, we still need a shift in the culture and mindset among scientists to observe a substantial improvement in the way research funds and grants are allocated.

What if we could provide a new technology that could promote such a shift in the scientific culture? Today, most of the youth in the developed world has grown up with social media at their fingertips. For the youth sharing their personal lives in a public space is normal. Similarly, we believe that blockchain technology could promote a new culture of sharing data and improve many aspects of the research cycle.The science publishing ecosystem on the blockchain would eliminate the need for trust and create more transparency. Assessment of research, since there will be neither journals nor impact factors, will have to be based solely on the quality of the research. Scientists will not have to blindly trust funders and reviewers of their grant applications. The entire review process can be made transparent and decentralised.

Using blockchain technology in science we envision the development of the “social media of science” but on a decentralised system. Scientists can share their research data instantly and prove ownership using timestamping. This is followed by a crowdsourced peer review process. Funders can then assess the research to be funded based on the ratings of the research data.

The question of where the data are published, or in which journal it appears, becomes irrelevant.

EUREKA will have the first blockchain-based scientific rating system, preprint server and single observation platform that provides reliable, immutable assessment of data. Assessments can be transferred on the blockchain to funders, institutions and directly to journals.

EUREKA is a scientific review and rating platform fuelled by the EUREKA token, which has the potential to radically improve the $20 billion global science publishing industry and the science research process.
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The EUREKA team is from the established open access Swiss science publisher, which will be the first to implement the EUREKA Platform.
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