ecentralized science, also known as DeSci, represents an emerging approach that leverages decentralized technologies like blockchain to improve various aspects of the scientific process. Proponents of DeSci argue the current academic system has flaws that centralized models cannot sufficiently address.

In this article, we will explore an overview of what decentralized science entails, how key technologies are enabling new approaches, potential benefits across different stakeholders, challenges to consider and what the future may hold for this paradigm-shifting movement.

Image where Decentralised Science is written with orange colour and the background is blue
What is DeSci?

What is DeSci?

Decentralized science (DeSci) describes efforts to apply decentralized technologies and governance models to improve various aspects of the scientific process. By removing centralized intermediaries from activities like research funding, publication, data sharing and project coordination, DeSci advocates believe scientific discovery can become more equitable, transparent and inclusive. 

Early-stage projects are experimenting with novel approaches like DAO-managed crowdfunding, reputation-based peer review, and open collaborative networks to advance knowledge in more decentralized ways.

Key Technologies Driving DeSci

Three core technologies underpinning decentralized science efforts are blockchain, distributed ledger technologies and digital decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs).

  • Blockchain refers to the decentralized, immutable ledger that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and enables the recording of transactions without centralized control. For science, blockchains allow for transparent tracking of research data, funding flows, peer review processes and more.
  • Distributed ledgers are databases that maintain synchronized digital records across multiple sites without centralized authority. They support features like verifiable credentials that can track a researcher's contributions, qualifications and reputation in an open yet privacy-preserving manner.
  • DAOs represent new forms of online organization governed by transparent rules encoded in smart contracts. When programmed to align incentives, DAOs can crowdfund research, coordinate global teams and distribute rewards in innovative ways that bypass traditional institutions and funding models.

Together, these decentralized technologies offer scientists promising new tools to foster open collaboration networks, transparently track research outputs, automate processes and fund groundbreaking projects in more equitable ways.

Image of scientists working in a laboratory
Decentralized Networks are Fostering Scientific Breakthroughs

How DeSci Aims to Transform Science

DeSci supporters argue its decentralized frameworks and tools will revolutionize how science is performed, reviewed, incentivized, and applied by:

  • Democratizing access to scientific knowledge and open participation globally
  • Catalyzing more diversity and inclusion through redistributed control of research priorities and funding
  • Enabling greater reproducibility and open collaboration through transparent systems
  • Streamlining bureaucratic processes like peer review and bureaucracy
  • Redistributing rewards more equitably between institutions and individual contributors
  • Funding higher-risk ideas that could lead to breakthroughs through novel models like DAOs
  • Accelerating the pace of discovery through networked "citizen science" resources
  • Empowering new community governance processes for knowledge generation

Key Benefits Across Different Stakeholders

Scientists & Researchers

  • More diverse sources of funding from crowdfunding platforms and DAOs
  • Ability to own and commercially develop intellectual property derived from research
  • Incentives for transparent data sharing and reproducible/verifiable findings
  • Alternative publishing models free from restrictive paywalls or acceptance fees


  • Broader access to scholarly literature and data no matter the institution
  • Potential funding opportunities for student-led projects
  • Experience with new collaborative tools primed for careers in decentralized STEM


  • Access to new capital beyond traditional research grants
  • Opportunity to modernize culture around data sharing and open science principles
  • More nimble commercialization of research discoveries and IP assets


  • Transparency into how funds are allocated and outputs/impacts realized
  • Novel grant mechanisms like quadratic funding empower smaller donations
  • Potential for new public-private partnership models


  • Swifter availability of publicly funded research for societal problem solving
  • Incentives to explore higher risk areas with outsized potential rewards
  • Avenues for greater citizen involvement in "citizen science" initiatives


  • Earlier access to academic discoveries and intellectual property
  • Opportunities to partner with DeSci projects and query open datasets
  • Avenues to financially support research relevant to corporate strategies


  • Potentially faster discovery and access to new medicines and technologies
  • Channels to directly fund research aligned with personal interests
  • Ownership of personal health/genetic data contributed to scientific pursuits
Image showing glass tubes in a laboratory and a scientist working on a chemical
Decentralization is Transforming Scientific Discovery

DeSci Projects

Several DeSci projects are experimenting with new funding approaches to advance scientific discovery in decentralized ways. Examples include

  • Data Lake - Blockchain-based platform focused on enabling patient-centric and ethical sharing of healthcare data for research purposes.
  • VitaDAO - Focuses on longevity research funding through a DAO model supporting early-stage research and startup formation. Has raised $4.1M to date.
  • Molecule - Decentralized platform aiming to transform funding for early-stage biomedical research by leveraging web3 tokens, NFTs and collective funding through DAOs.
  • Athena - Aims to fill funding gaps around women's health conditions like endometriosis through their DAO and native tokens.
  • Valley DAO - Supports global collaborations tackling sustainability problems like climate change via synthetic biology solutions.
  • GenomesDAO - Seeks to build the world's largest community-owned genomic database and fund decentralized genomics initiatives.
  • ResearchDAO - Development of an open synthetic biology lab for DNA fabrication and wet lab work funded by their DAO.

Challenges and Considerations for DeSci

While promising transformative impacts, DeSci also faces challenges that must be addressed for responsible scaling:

  • Technical challenges around interoperability between blockchain systems and sustainable tech infrastructure
  • Regulatory barriers around issues like intellectual property, clinical research approval processes
  • Risks of bias if frameworks do not intentionally foster diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Threats of recentralization away from an ideal of full decentralization in some implementations
  • Inertia from academics comfortable with legacy publishing and funding models
  • Open questions around long-term data ownership, privacy safeguards and stewardship
  • Ensuring access remains open not exclusive to early blockchain adopter communities

DeSci has the potential to transform scientific processes in ways that optimize knowledge creation and dissemination for broad benefit. Through collaborative platforms leveraging blockchain, distributed ledger technologies and novel incentive structures, Decentralized science aims to remove barriers that currently impede open-source networks of global researchers.

While challenges certainly exist, continued testing of governance models and technical standards could ultimately birth a more equitable system maximizing humanity's collective pursuit of understanding through science. An exciting future may emerge if proponents successfully address obstacles to participation, privacy and regulation through ethical application of these emerging technologies.

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