Cannabis, Blockchain, and a Challenge to the $25 Billion Scientific Publishing Market

(Credit: NHGRI)

A new project to publish a controversial Cannabis genome to the blockchain may be big news for scientists seeking to head off patent battles and prove the originality of their research. It may also represent a significant challenge to the $25 billion scientific publishing market and reduce the dependency among scientists to publish innovative research results in academic journals.

The Dash Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), which distributes one of the more successful cryptocurrencies in the that sector, recently voted to begin funding to publish the genome of the ‘Jamaican Lion’ Cannabis plant to the blockchain.

The idea is that blockchain will provide a permanent, transparent and indisputable record of the innovative scientific research, preventing others, including large corporations, from laying claim to the commercial benefits of scientific advances.

 

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The Dash cryptocurrency is already frequently used for payment in the fast-growing legal cannabis market. So, it makes sense that the DAO would capture the attention of Dash currency owners, who have voted to fund this project. However, the implications of using Blockchain in this way are much broader.

The peer-review system in academic journals is currently the only established way in which scientists take original research to market, and the principle way in which scientific progress is documented. If you don’t publish, you don’t get a job.

However, it’s a maligned system, with widespread recognition of abuse and a startingly low reproducibility rate. It might be worse than you might think. In 2016 Nature published an article suggesting that 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.

Defenders of the existing peer-reviewed system will explain that it’s the best system we have. That may have been true – until now. The blockchain system being proposed also involves rigorous peer review, but in a much more transparent way.

Move over scientific publishing. Blockchain is coming.