What Reputational Models Mean to the Future of Decentralized Science
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June 7th, 2022

Reputation is a powerful — yet at times ambiguous — concept in the field of science and scientific research.

Scientific research has historically been a highly centralized endeavor, with universities, foundations, and major corporations all setting the agenda. The reputations of individual researchers are often at stake, and can significantly affect what research is conducted and how much funding they receive.

However, the notion of how scientific research is conducted is being turned on its head by Decentralized Science (DeSci). When research in DeSci is conducted by Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), it unlocks a new slew of possibilities for researchers. And with this comes the need for reputational systems and models to replace the role and function of professional notoriety that hinders Web 2.0 era research.

Orange Protocol believes that reputation systems, mechanisms, and credentials are critical for the next iteration of Web3 to thrive and succeed. DeSci will become an increasingly large part of the decentralization discussion and is one of the best examples of why reputations will also become more relevant moving forward.

And while we focus on what reputation models mean to the future of decentralized science, it’s also important that we consider the applications in other areas of meaningful engagement and productivity within Web3 communities.

The Web 2.0 researcher reputation dilemma

Reputation in Web3 should open doors and empower, not a hindrance or limiting factor for re-shaping science and other areas of society. Science is a perfect illustration of how the use of reputation in Web 2.0 needs to change. Developing new technologies often goes on behind closed doors, leading to potential misalignments between the research and actual applications.

There is also a reputational dilemma in terms of who actually conducts and is therefore accredited with various forms of scientific research. In an academic setting, oftentimes researchers will be credited with a study that was largely performed by graduates or other assistants. Thus, in traditional science, reputation doesn’t always follow the right people.

Finally, the funding mechanisms and frameworks are ripe for disruption as in longstanding scientific research practices. Corporations or academic institutions often decide which initiatives get funded and by what amount in a relatively undemocratic process. Researchers are then bound to build and cultivate their reputations under these relatively limiting parameters.

Reputation can unlock innovative new research

The emergence of research DAOs and DeSci is showing a new path for how scientific research can be funded, conducted, and peer-reviewed. But for these new pathways to flourish, reputation systems and models need to be developed as part of the base layer for DeSci and research DAOs. There are several core reasons why this is the case.

First, researchers need to ability cultivate and build authentic and accurate reputations in an anonymous or pseudonymous way. Doing so frees researchers from worrying about how objective results might impact corporate or university funding. This reality is coming to life as DAOs like VitaDAO fund research via treasuries and voting governance to tackle specific areas of science — human longevity in this case.

With blockchain technology, DAOs can now crowdfund research in a transparent manner and even potentially use Zero-Knowledge proofs to keep researchers’ identities secret while still authenticating and verifying their research was done. This would contribute to more unbiased research and help researchers port their reputations in a way that better protects privacy.

Redefining reputation in peer review and journals

Taken a step further, reputational models on the blockchain can significantly impact how peer review is conducted and journals are published. Peer review is by nature an anonymous process, with the reviewers’ reputations essentially being validated by a university, corporation, or other centralized entity.

Conducting peer review in a research DAO, combined with community-based treasury and governance funding, could completely rewrite the rules of scientific research. DAOs could form based on specific problems and phenomena they want to tackle, conduct the research, and have a transparent review process by peers with reputations verified on the blockchain.

Results of studies could then be published in a decentralized journal format, with transparency of the researcher’s reputation available on-chain, while maintaining the pseudonymity of the individual. When DAOs begin implementing reputational systems and models for peer review and journals, it will provide a proof of concept for Web 2.0 scientists and researchers.

Reputation is critical to onboard more research talent and funding into DeSci, enabling more fruitful pathways of research and discovery in both hard and social sciences. Building the next generation of DAOs and research frameworks requires that individuals be able to build reputation on-chain and have their IRL identities protected if they so choose.

DAOs and other Web3 research collectives that are driving to implement reputational models for proposals, funding, and peer review will lead the way in solving problems current incentive structures simply don’t encourage or reward.

*Want to learn more about how DeSci DAOs and projects can use reputation systems and models? Join the discussion in the Orange Protocol Discord today — *discord.gg/3eeSYGEU2k

About Orange

Orange is a protocol for building trustless, decentralized, and portable reputation for Web3 projects, spaces, and communities. By aggregating on and off-chain data, Orange enables the creation of unique reputation reports, scores, NFTs, and credentials for each individual.

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