Cambridge University Press, alongside Taylor & Francis Group, Springer Nature, and others, have formed a consortium to pilot the use of blockchain technology in the academic peer review process.
Brigitte Shull, Director of Scholarly Communications R&D from Cambridge University Press, said in a statement:
“Peer review is one of the most vital services we provide to the academic communities we work with and this includes the exploration of new technologies and processes where it offers an opportunity for better peer review outcomes.
We are excited to learn more about the ways in which blockchain applications will help us to innovate and evolve as an industry.”
Technical details are sparse, but an Amsterdam based blockchain start-up, Katalysis, has apparently developed their own blockchain implementation, called Katalysis Decentralized Publishing (pictured above), that further utilizes smart contracts for a customized publishers setting.
Back in March, Eveline Klumpers, co-founder Katalysis, said that “blockchain technology unlocks a far-reaching new form of engagement between parties which cannot seek such collaborations due to competing business interests.
Springer Nature and ORCID are making an important step forward towards a fairer and more transparent ecosystem for peer review, pioneering a path for new ways to conduct business in the academic industry.”
The academic peer review process can often be inaccessible for verification to those not directly involved in the peer review.
The hope is blockchain technology could change some of it by increasing transparency. Deborah Kahn, Publishing Director, and lead on the project for Taylor & Francis says:
“At a time when trust and transparency are increasingly important, high quality peer review is fundamental to the scholarly communication process.
The use of blockchain to help to solve some of the current challenges in peer review is a timely initiative, and we are delighted to be able to contribute to its success.”
It’s unclear how exactly this would work in a realistic setting, but the project aims to “develop a protocol where information about peer review activities (submitted by publishers) are stored on a blockchain.
This will allow the review process to be independently validated, and data to be fed to relevant vehicles to ensure recognition and validation for reviewers.”
One of the most important quality of blockchain technology is arguably their ability to allow anyone to be sure of history.
That works well in a digital setting, but when interfacing with physical aspects you also have to be sure that whatever history is entered is accurate to begin with, otherwise the history itself doesn’t matter.
But even in those instances, if there is a change you can see what change was made, with blockchain’s network like nature allowing different entities or individuals, who may well be competitors, to take part in the process and thus ensure veracity.
How this would work in an academic peer review setting remains very much to be seen as this is the first pilot of this nature as far as we are aware, but undoubtedly the end results will be interesting to many in this space and outside of it.