Fighting Oligopoly by Empowering Smaller Industry Actors

The current scholarly publication process has many problems that affect the research community: high publication costs, copyright held by publishers instead of authors, biased publication and peer review process, lack of rewards and recognition for reviewers, and proliferation of low-quality journals. In the last few decades, several initiatives have tried to improve the situation, but they have proved insufficient to reverse market inefficiencies and barriers. However, blockchain technology could be the enabler of change that the industry sorely needs.

Blockchain allows us to build infrastructures that enable open, trustworthy, decentralized and collaborative environments. Using this technology, people can submit entries into public records of information and the community of users can control how those records are amended and updated. In addition to its open nature, blockchain has two other important properties: transparency and security, making it almost impossible to corrupt or hack. Harnessing the power of blockchain technology and instilling these properties of transparency and security into the scientific publication industry represents an unprecedented opportunity to return the control of science dissemination to researchers. It also opens the door to more scientific discoveries through the empowerment of scientists.

There are some publication platforms that have made it their mission to return the benefits of science back to society by leveraging the unique and seamless integration of cutting-edge technologies to create platforms to process, validate, and disseminate research data and results. These actors want to establish a transparent, comprehensive and competitive business model to obtain and increase revenue while supporting global research. However, a more concerted effort among all actors in the academic publishing space to improve the quality and efficiency of the publishing process will help deliver a fairer, more transparent and competitive market controlled by the entire community, free of biased oligopolies and hidden interests.

A David with the head of Goliath statue in the gardens of Schwerin Castle in northern Germany

Previously a lofty ambition, blockchain technology can level the playing field between the Davids and Goliaths of the publishing industry, empowering the individual, giving researchers and research institutions full control over the life cycle of the publications. I envision a future where researchers are free to establish the terms and prices for the rights to print, redistribute, download, translate or re-use their work. And with blockchain enabling more efficient and groundbreaking scientific research, we are on the cusp of a new, dynamic and transparent academic publishing landscape. Exciting times lie ahead.

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