NFTs, Web3 and the Metaverse are changing the way scientists do research

Scientists can use blockchain tools like smart contracts and tokens to improve collaboration on scientific endeavors between different stakeholders. This so-called decentralized science movement, or DeSci for short, combines blockchain and Web3 technologies to improve scientific research.

A key goal of DeSci is broader participation and funding in addressing scientific challenges, as well as democratizing the peer-to-peer review process, which is dominated by a few journals where it can be costly to appear, and combating the Censorship. DeSci can also create standards for storing research results using Proof-of-Existence technology. While on financial blockchains like Bitcoin, transactions are verified by a network of miners, research could also be verified by participants in a blockchain network of scientists, etc.

decentralization of science

Blockchain-based peer review ecosystems can be transparent and lend credibility to research contributed even by pseudonymous participants. For example, scientists could receive a share or “reward” for their participation, encouraging a wider community to contribute.


Essentially, decentralized science allows for the development of platforms that allow more people to work with what Dr. Benjamin Bratton calls the “source code of matter”. The democratization of science through decentralized science would enable a new kind of interface layer for a modern scientific revolution. The way to do this is to decentralize access to scientific activity – in short, to give citizen scientists a role.

We’ve seen this with computers, and we think it could happen with science in general. At the beginning of the computer revolution, working with software was difficult. Very few understood the rare technologies, which over time became more and more intuitive and simple – thanks to different levels of abstraction – and therefore allowed more people to become valuable contributors. Some of the technologies that have made this possible are Javascript and helpful packages designed to make coding more efficient. At a lower level of abstraction, there is a technology like WordPress that allows people who don’t understand the software or coding to set up their website.

Blockchain technology for science

Blockchain technology (tokens, NFTs, metaverses) has the potential to influence the platform economy so positively that access to scientific collaborations is democratized. When you think of platforms, you generally think of Uber or Airbnb, which in and of themselves are world-changing projects. But the economics of platforms is a very young research area and is even pushing game theory as an academic discipline. This process started with Bitcoin (BTC) and has since been driven only by Ethereum (ETH) and the dozens, if not hundreds, of other blockchains.

Related: Which blockchain is the most decentralized? experts answer

Historically, web platforms and apps tend to have a centripetal character in their value creation process; The more they are used, the more value the platform manufacturer recognizes. Blockchain enables a fairer rule where the more people participate in a given platform and the more people add value to the platform, the more they get back from the platform.


Decentralized Science (DeSci) differs from an IP platform or a platform where the more the platform is used, the more it benefits and the value consolidates. In the case of DeSci, the people who create the value – the researchers, the scientists, citizen scientists, etc. – gain value according to the value of their contribution; i.e. the more it is used by other researchers and scientists etc. the more value they receive.

The impact this can have on basic research in science and mathematics and other things could be hugely important. DeSci creates new ways of contributing and collaborating that were not possible until the advent of blockchain technology. If you have knowledge or understanding that is valuable in itself and as part of a larger project (you may not even know what that project is), someone else can use your contribution, and you can be recognized for it and earn residuals from that contribution into the future.

NFTs will play a major role in the future of the metaverse because scientific research could safely be transmitted through NFTs. Science has already used NFTs. The University of California, Berkeley, for example, auctioned an NFT linked to documents relating to the world of Nobel Prize-winning cancer researcher James Allison for more than $50,000. The US Space Force, a branch of the US Armed Forces, began selling a series of NFTs featuring augmented reality imagery of satellites and space iconography. Biology pioneer George Church’s company, Nebula Genomics, plans to sell an NFT of Church’s genome. Church is a geneticist at Harvard University in Cambridge and helped start the Human Genome Project. There are more and more use cases for NFTs in science, and there are bound to be more.

Related: The Code of Life: Blockchain and the Future of Genomics

Blockchain is a high-resolution way of capturing, indexing, and calculating values. The potential is there and it is now up to DeSci organizations to demonstrate their merit, scientific excellence and overall effectiveness in improving the scientific process.

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The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Steve McCloskey is a first class graduate of Nanoengineering from the University of California, San Diego. Steve’s work focuses on emerging technologies applied in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). After graduating from UCSD, he founded Nanome Inc to develop virtual reality solutions for scientists and engineers working at the nanoscale, specifically protein engineering and small molecule drug development.