Decentralization emerges as a catalyst for inclusivity, potentially bridging the gap for scientists in underfunded niches and remote locales, all without necessitating their physical relocation or job reassignment.
A recent editorial in the esteemed pages of the Nature science journal, within its Nature Bioscience section, extolled the merits of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) as a groundbreaking avenue for researchers operating in underfunded scientific domains to establish vibrant communities around their endeavors and secure financial backing that might otherwise remain elusive.
Within a DAO-driven research framework, the entire spectrum of project organization, fundraising, feedback, and the journey from discovery to tangible outcomes is orchestrated by a single decentralized governing entity.
According to the insights shared in the Nature article, this innovative workflow promises a more streamlined approach compared to the existing norms: “Project proposals are submitted to the DAO, and every DAO member possesses the privilege to cast their vote on the feasibility of a specific project for funding. These members hold tokens…which they employ to lend their support and insights to novel project proposals. As research advances, outcomes are regularly presented to the DAO, fostering continuous feedback and active involvement. Eventually, the project may culminate in an IP-NFT (intellectual property non-fungible token), akin to a patent, collectively owned by the DAO and overseen by all token holders.”
Funding for scientific endeavors can exhibit wild fluctuations. During cycles of boom and recession, fields such as AI and quantum computing might experience windfalls from major tech corporations, governmental bodies, and subsequent investors. Conversely, sectors that were once well-funded, like longevity research, or traditionally marginalized areas like women’s health, might encounter growing challenges in securing financial support.
DAOs are rooted in blockchain technology, granting them the capability to function within a transparent and decentralized digital ledger—free from the dominion of any single entity or institution. In the realm of science, this translates into the democratization of project funding and community engagement. Traditionally, those scientists affiliated with prestigious institutions—leading universities in affluent nations, government research bodies, major tech conglomerates, and pharmaceutical giants—not only benefit from substantial funding but also enjoy access to a vast reservoir of potential financial backing.
This distinction bears significant weight because the migration of scientists from regions with limited funding to wealthier hubs exacerbates the phenomenon commonly referred to as the “brain drain.”
Furthermore, DAOs, by their very nature, are not bound by geographical boundaries (although the legality of their operation can vary by jurisdiction). Consequently, they can be governed by the aspirations and needs of the researchers themselves, rather than the dictates of a specific nation, academic institution, or corporate entity providing sponsorship.
In conclusion, the editorial team at Nature envisions DAOs as a potential cornerstone for underfunded researchers. However, successful adoption hinges on the dissemination of knowledge and understanding. As the staff eloquently puts it, “A portion of this challenge revolves around enlightening prospective members about the DAO’s role, which extends beyond mere financial support—it is also a tightly-knit community of individuals deeply committed to championing specific scientific causes.”