The results of a survey from talentDAO and DeSciWorld shed light on the impact Gitcoin Round 15 crowdfunding can have on decentralized science (DeSci) organizations and ecosystem development. We explored what these projects are and what they achieved using the funds received. This is the first phase of the DeSci Landscape Analysis, which aims to understand what the decentralized science movement is and what impact it has on the scientific ecosystem.
Decentralized science or DeSci is an expanding movement in the web3 space that explores how blockchain-based solutions can improve scientific research pain points such as publishing and funding. This movement shares energy with open science’s principles and practices aiming to make scientific knowledge more accessible, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Ignited when a group of scientists, builders, and crypto enthusiasts started the paradigm-shifting exploration of decentralized funding channels like DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), science NFTs, token launches, and crowdfunding. Due to the early nature of the ecosystem, many definitions continue to evolve, including if distributed ledger technology is an essential component to be considered a DeSci project. More resources to explore this discussion and information about DeSci projects can be found at the end of this report.
A few issues that decentralized science aims to address in traditional science is funding and decision making. Currently the majority of scientific funding decisions come from small, centralized, or governmental sources where known biases are at play (ex. preferences for known labs, men led projects, or politically aligned projects). This results in many scientific domains being underfunded, especially more disruptive research investigations. This small group approach doesn’t allow broader communities to participate such as those directly affected by the research. Taking a decentralized approach can help achieve this.
The Gitcoin Grants Program is an initiative run by Gitcoin DAO for public goods funding in the crypto space. Through its platform, the community has the opportunity to show direct support to the projects by donating funds that will be matched to that of a particular pool of partner funds. Matched amounts follow quadratic funding distribution mechanisms, which means the number of contributions matters more than the amount funded.
In September 2022, Gitcoin held a DeSci featured case round (GR15). This resulted in $568k USD being allocated to 82 projects in the ecosystem. This influx of support resulted in many DeSci projects being able to take their next step forward. This report covers 41 of the 82 Gitcoin Round 15 DeSci projects that responded to a survey focused on their accomplishments, barriers, needs, resources, funding, and demographics.
We asked 21 questions covering identifiers such as project purpose, associations, team composition and accomplishment perceptions. We also asked open questions that allowed respondents to give more detail about their needs, the barriers they face and what have they accomplished thanks to the GR15 round.
To analyze the information from the open questions, we used inductive content analysis coding, which is an exploratory methodology that allows themes to emerge directly from the data. We identified these themes and then categorized participant responses based on a selected list themes to be used as analytical codes. We had a threshold for each theme, such that at least 9 responses had to be present for a theme to be considered. The summarized count can be seen below:
DeSci projects had accomplishments across publications, partnerships, educational efforts, participation in events, new implementations/updates, and shipped products/services. Five out of 7 of those who indicated they accomplished all of their goals participated in events. However, partnerships were more frequently achieved by projects that didn’t accomplish as many of their goals.
Of the 22 projects that focused on community building, 8 participated in events but only 2 indicated they accomplished a partnership.
7/9 of the projects that accomplished educational efforts focused on community building, however only 3 focused their efforts on funding.
11/16 projects that focused on technical infrastructure had new implementations/updates or shipped products/services.
2/3 of the projects that had received other funding also focused on research.
The needs of DeSci projects vary by project development or accomplishment level.
Projects that accomplished all of their goals need funding to get to the next level. 4 of the 6 projects that accomplished all of their proposed goals indicated funding as their only need suggesting an unmet need for investors or funding sources to level up the DeSci ecosystem and advance the sciences.
The greatest need of projects that accomplished most of their goals (scoring 8-9 out of 10), was support with a business model and market fit suggesting that as talented business professionals support projects at this stage, more projects will accomplish all of their goals.
Projects that accomplished 70% of their goals or less all indicated attraction was a primary need. This suggests that a primary focus at this stage may be community expansion and engagement.
$587k was funneled into the DeSci ecosystem during Gitcoin Round 15, most of which came from sponsor matches determined through Gitcoin’s quadratic funding formula that weigh the number of donors more heavily than traditional sponsorship models. Due to the early nature of the DeSci ecosystem, more analysis is needed to establish stronger correlations related to funding.
Although DeSci has much greater representation compared to the broader web3 ecosystem, there is still need for improvement over gender distribution of project leaders. Currently women only led teams make up 1:6 whereas men only led teams still make up 3:5 of projects. DeSci projects with women on the core team also more frequently focused on research and community building.
Media often portrays web3 as an industry dominated by younger participants. Within the DeSci ecosystem, this portrayal may not be as accurate.
Project leaders range in age from 19 to 70 year olds. This lays a stable foundation for DeSci to be a space for people of any age attracting those with more experience and those newer to the traditional scientific system.
DeSci currently heavily focuses its efforts on North America (78%) and Europe (41%) followed by Latin America (26%), South America (17%), and Africa (12%), with all other regions being focused on by less than 10% of projects.
One complaint often expressed about traditional or institutional science is the lack of collaboration and the competitive nature of the space. DeSci is trending towards opposing this stance with half of the projects offering “information or resources that would help enhance the understanding of the DeSci ecosystem”. This includes repositories, insights on legal formalization or scientists’ onboarding, and educational tools like documents, videos and series of talks.
Furthermore, there is an appetite for learning from one another. Forty-two percent of projects desired future DeSci landscape analysis efforts to explore open collaboration and partnerships, hoping to see more projects working in the open and collaborating with other initiatives and how they do so.
The DeSci Landscape is a budding ecosystem and as projects mature over time more pronounced trends may emerge.
This survey showed that the ecosystem indicated they wanted more transparent definitions and dialogue about what these projects are actually doing so it becomes easier to follow their work and collaborate. There’s also interest in knowing more about the demographic representation of each project (gender, age, professional background, nationality, etc.). More information about how to collaborate and receive funds is also requested, as well as asking for a way to measure DeSci’s impact. This could help create an understanding of how funding these projects really impacts the scientific landscape such as overcoming pain points slowing down traditional science.
We plan to explore these requests in further phases of this study, trying to get as many DeSci teams involved. If you are part of a decentralized team doing science, please consider collaborating with us and answering the survey we’ll share in the coming months.
At a high level, there are opportunities to get involved with and support DeSci that vary across the level of accomplishment a given project exhibits. DeSci is also more inclusive from an age and gender perspective than the broader web3 ecosystem and traditional science which is in alignment with decentralization ideals.
As DeSci continues to expand and evolve we expect to see more involvement and community growth. Talent is needed across the board but it varies by stage. There’s plenty of room for scientists to join DeSci projects, but also developers, lawyers, marketing experts and project managers are needed.
DeSci is in its early stages of ecosystem development with many projects being developed and the community actively growing. We believe that as it continues to evolve it can deeply influence the scientific landscape, bringing meaningful results in the coming years.
If you have an interest in working in science in a decentralized space, you should consider joining one of these teams and building together. You’ll find resources at the end of this report that will help you understand more about DeSci and how to get started.
Awesome-DeSci: A curated list of awesome decentralized science (DeSci) resources, projects, articles and more. https://github.com/DeSciWorldDAO/awesome-desci
DeSciWorld Dashboard: A free-to-use online information hub that aggregates and displays information about DeSci projects https://desci.world/dashboard
DeSci.Global: A calendar of upcoming and past decentralized science events. https://www.desci.global/
Distributed Ledger Technology for Open Scientists https://thesciencecommons.substack.com/p/distributed-ledger-technology-for
Implementing DeSci in Web3 Development: A Guide for Builders https://hackernoon.com/implementing-desci-in-web3-development-a-guide-for-builders
Could blockchain unblock science? https://www.nature.com/nature-index/news-blog/could-blockchain-unblock-science
A Guide to DeSci, the Latest Web3 Movement https://a16zcrypto.com/posts/article/what-is-decentralized-science-aka-desci/
Decentralized science (DeSci) https://ethereum.org/en/desci/
Catalyzing a Movement with Gitcoin Grants https://www.gitcoin.co/blog/catalyzing-a-movement-with-gitcoin-grants
Quadratic Voting: How Mechanism Design Can Radicalize Democracy https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2003531