Blockchain and AI networks will set science free
The knowledge industry has become trapped in an expensive factory line cycle in which it is both the producer of the product and the overpaying end customer.
University scientists and researchers supply their work for free to publishers of scientific journals who pay editors to judge if the work should be published.
Publishers then package up the research into journals and resell them to universities’ librarians at often extortionate fees.
The largest publisher of scientific journals, Elsevier, enjoyed profits of over £900 million in recent years, coming close to a 40% profit margin.
The irony is that the bulk of the editorial burden of checking the scientific validity of research is done by working scientists on a volunteer basis through a process known as peer review, not by the publishers.
This has sparked outrage from scientific researchers, academic institutions, policy-makers and the general public, but the stranglehold grip of the publishers’ monopolies has continued unchallenged.
However, the pendulum of scientific knowledge could now begin to swing out of their control.
The token economy backed by blockchain and the power of AI has opened new opportunities to take on the powerful intermediaries and their lucratively run system.
Project Aiur aims at opening up science through disintermediating some very powerful middlemen, using blockchain as a platform for a transparent AI peer review and to create a publishing service with its own online economy.
Enabled by an open source AI-based knowledge validation engine project, Aiur will build a new incentive model for open research publication to create a community owned and validated repository of science.
The mastermind behind this brave new frontier for democratising scientific knowledge is Norwegian Anita Schjoll Brede, Chief Executive Officer & CO-Founder at Iris.ai.
In the past 10 years her career has spanned nine industries including developing an e-learning tool in Silicon Valley, performing theatre for babies, reducing energy consumption in the process industry through heat exchanger network optimisation, getting 30 (mainly middle-age male) engineers to dance to ABBA in front of their co-workers, and facilitating solar light business creation in Kenya.
She’s also been in the centre of several startups crashing and burning, organising entrepreneurial conferences, and trying to disrupt the recruitment industry.
On the way she dropped by six universities and separately built a race car.
As an example of the extent of the challenge Aiur has taken on, Brede says “I do not believe Satoshi is hired by an academic institution. You see, had she been, publishing her paper in a crypto newsletter would be entirely unheard of: she would have every incentive to get her paper into a Tier 1 journal to get the Tier 1-points, used for applying to her next round of funding, which she would need to keep her job. “Publish or perish”.
“This Tier 1 journal would likely be owned by Elsevier or Nature/Springer, and would, when published after 9-18 months, charge about $25 for a private individual to access the paper if they could find it. And about $5.5M per year in subscription fees for an average British university. None of us would be where we are today. Now, we are happy Satoshi didn’t go through all this, but published her article openly, but the question is: what other radical discoveries that go through this process are still hidden behind these paywalls?”
She explains, there are five major issues facing the world of science today: information overload from the sheer number of papers published, requiring new tools to properly manage them; access barriers caused by a lucrative legacy business model from the 5 oligopolistic main publishers; reproducibility issues caused by tight deadlines and skewed incentives to polish results for top tier journals; built-in biases in both the citation system as well as skewed trust in financially strong institutions; and, a total incentive misalignment for researchers and scientists as a result of this failed digitisation.
Aiur’s goal is to break science out of the traps of the current mold with a truly decentralized community, ensured with a 2% token ownership cap, that together will build an AI-based Knowledge Validation Engine.
This engine allows Aiur to build a functioning economy with a new incentive model for contributions to the world of scientific knowledge.
Functional from day one, contributors can earn tokens initially through AI training – creating annotated datasets. Tokens can soon also be earned from contributing code and quality assurance, and longer-term, through publishing of research as well as performing peer review.
Aiur is issuing an ERC20 token, with both the basic smart contracts for minting tokens and a financial institution designed to keep the economy stable including an AIUR/ETH pool, and an as-needed taxation scheme working to the benefit of the community at large.
On the AI front, Aiur has developed a detailed roadmap for its NLP including argument mining, hypothesis extraction and the building of a “truth tree” of a research paper.
Brede says this roadmap builds on “three years of experience building AI tools for semi-automating the literature review process,” noting that “we know what we’re doing at this point.”
Aiur is currently launching a public token sale, aiming to raise €10 million with a lower cap of €6 million and an upper cap of €50 million.
The private sale whitelist has just opened, the project already has commitments of about €600,000 and the private sale will close at €6 million.
“Project Aiur is a not-for-profit project for Iris.ai and is formed from a need to make impact in this industry. Far from suitable for a short-term speculator, we see this as a longer-term play.”
“We are as such looking for science-loving token buyers who believe in the vision and have ethos as a leg of their purchase decisions.
“However, the Research & Development industry spends $138 billion a year on ‘digital enablers’, so this is far from an unprofitable industry. A good little chunk of this money we hope to funnel into the Aiur community via the tool usage, and thus to the token holders,” says Brede.
And the Aiur project has seen widespread backing, operating in a fast-moving Open Access movement where governments and institutions are refusing to cow-tow to bottleneck publishers.
200 German institutions have refused to renew their Elsevier subscriptions, Sweden declared the same company as unfit to deliver services to the country, and France followed suit with Nature/Springer.
The EU is working on mandating that all EU financed research be published with Open Access by 2020.
“We are in good company!” says Brede. “On that note, we are currently working closely with Unit, a division of the Ministry of Education in Norway, to stake out how we can help each other achieve their goals of Open Access beyond the EU directive.”
The Aiur project carries the promise of breaking science out of the production cycle where universities and scientists are both suppliers, production line workers, and end buyers of their own product.
The possibilities that are yet to come from opening up the best of scientific research to the world are limitless, Brede concludes “making science open, reproducible and validated are important prerequisites for using it to solve the biggest challenges we’re facing as a human species, from climate change through ocean plastic to cancer.”
And if knowledge is power, then project Aiur will go a long way to placing power into the hands of the people.