Crypto-encouraged Peer Review - a working alternative to the slow erosion of scientific journals and copyright

The case for RAID Review (Rapid Anon Incentivized Direct Review)

Most people take copyright for granted. But it contradicts free speech. Even those who understand it often believe it to be a necessary evil.

It is not

Few people stop to consider the negative impact this has had on the propagation of information and the melding of ideas. Most people conflate their remixing of words or sounds with property rights. While verbatim emulation of another person's communication is a form of flattery, it hardly demands much respect when passed off as unique. Genomics teaches us that remixing genes is the state of nature and this process accelerates evolution and selection.

This should be embraced, not restricted.

Regardless of where you stand on the ethics of copyright, you are probably aware that its days are numbered. With the capacity to decentralize encrypted data storage, there is no way to stop copyright violations without resorting to excessive violence and invasion of privacy.

As Thomas Jefferson once said: "He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me."

Information is not a scarce or rivalrous good. It is meant to spread and if your business plan relies on restricting information flow, you are about to be dis-intermediated by the cryptocurrency revolution.

Much of the scientific literature is protected by copyright simply to prop up an obsolete business model. When science was printed on paper, the printing overhead was measureable. The internet has created a "post-Gutenberg" world where anyone can publish as effectively online as a credible Journal.

Is the Journals' role to organize credibility? With retraction rates as high as they are and reproducibility studies as low as they are, one must question if they are properly incentivized to be an arbiter of scientific credit.

Journals still capture "processing fees" from $1000-$3000 per article in 2017.

They acquire copyright from the true authors of the work while receiving this payment, and they provide zero of this processing fee to the reviewers of said work.

In any other field, this would be called a parasitic relationship designed to create the lowest possible review quality.

It is, to use an accurate and filthy phrase, rent-seeking.

Cryptocurrencies offer us the chance to reverse these incentive models and dis-intermediate the parasitic journals while sidestepping the copyright issue.

What if one could crowd source reviewers and create an incentivized market for review with credit ratings on reviewer's price and quality much like an eBay seller or buyer?

Rapid reviews would command higher pricing, and quality, then less urgent review.

We coin this RAID Review (Rapid Anon Incentivized and Direct Review).

Transparency on who reviewed the work and all of the communications in the review process could be placed online with the manuscript. Processing fees would go to hosting costs and reviewer costs. The credibility would be emergent in web statistic tools like Altametrics. We already see journals clutching onto these tools as they try to socialize their centralized responsibility for quality and privatize the monetization of publication.

They are telegraph salesmen in a quantum computing world.

This new system will likely get laughed at first as those with the most influence enjoy the broken review system they have mastered as a barrier for those behind them.

But younger scientists who grew up on the Internet will embrace Raid Review as the old, slow, broken ways slowly die out along with those who cling to it and prop it up.

The crypto-incentivized approach is unique. No journal is required. No copyright is required. Strategic use of hashing tools and blockchains would ensure counterfeiting sites that attempt to manipulate the data in their favor or pass it off as their own would be tamper evident and obvious.

Such a design would also enable anonymous scientific publication and review. We believe this is increasingly important in a world where author surveillance and politics distort scientific review.

The data should stand on its veracity, not the background or political beliefs of the author.

To experiment with Raid Review, The Kratom Genome Project placed a Bitcoin bounty for a qualified individual to peer review early sequencing data.

This was not a traditional peer review in that the project was in a pilot stage. This was simply a review to confirm that a whitepaper with preliminary data was factual and the pilot was on track to be successful.

This would make it easier for people to feel confident donating funds via cryptocurrencies to complete the project. The method was a proof of work / anti-scam measure to provide legitimacy for a genomics fund drive that was reaching not only into the scientific world, but also soliciting donations from the lay public.

The bounty was placed on Linked-In and 35 qualified people from all over the world responded within 48 hours.

One reviewer was selected and the review was complete in under 4 days. Of note, the bounty was 0.1BTC worth $820 at the start of the bid and worth $1003 once the review was complete. Half was paid upfront and half paid on completion. A few requirements were asked of the reviewer.

1) Since the authors chose to remain anonymous, confirm you are not reviewing your own work or affiliated with the Kratom Genome Project.

2) Confirm the genome is Kratom with whatever methods are deemed appropriate. FastQC, BLAST and ITS regions were suggested.

3) Confirm The Kratom Genome Project sequenced X amount more than what is publicly available.

4) Four-day deadline

No censorship of the review document was allowed and this can be verified with Blockchain proof of existence hashing of the document.

Here's the page with more info and links to where he published his findings. 

That page also links  proof on the Namecoin blockchain of when it was published, including SHA-256 values of the documents.

It should be noted that this is an experiment and we encourage others to mutate this approach, iterate and remix. Genomics would have it no other way.


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