ARTiFACTS at the British Blockchain Associations’s virtual #COVIDSummit

Updated May 12, 2020
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    ARTiFACTS CEO Dave Kochalko recently participated in the British Blockchain Association‘s #COVIDSummit: “Corona and the Blockchain: The Future of Work, Education & Networking in Times of Global Humanitarian Crises”. Below, he shares his thoughts on the summit and summarizes his remarks. 

    You can find and follow the BBA on LinkedIn and Twitter, and find more recaps and insights from the summit using the hashtag #COVIDSummit. 

    Regarding how our application has employed blockchain technology in the fight against the virus

    Like many other infotech and research platforms, ARTiFACTS focused immediately on how best we could contribute to the work already underway on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease.  Our registry services had already been posting proof-of-existence and citation transactions for all research disciplines onto the Max Planck bloxberg consortium blockchain. These transactions secure the provenance of new research and citations to that research so creators may be recognized for all their contributions, whether or not those contributions to knowledge have been published.  So, specifically in response to this pandemic, we’ve undertaken two projects:

    • First, we expanded the coverage of research in our system related to the virus.  And we put emphasis on the most recent, unpublished findings – because for such a fast moving challenge this is where the highest value new information can be found.  While peer-review and formal vetting are essential for establishing general understandings, the keys to rapid achievement of vaccines and therapies for this virus will emerge from the research that is underway – in real-time.
    • Then, on March 4 we announced the formation of a public registry for all related new research. This registry is available free to researchers worldwide.  We seeded the project from trusted open access sources including bioRxiv, medRxiv, PubMedCentral and others.  Its purpose is to facilitate registration and access to files relating to COVID-19 research including but not limited to preprints, datasets, images and other digital work products

    By making these works discoverable and citable in real-time, we are accelerating the cycle of delivering benefits from bench-to-bedside while simultaneously enabling scientists to receive credit for all their contributions. Ultimately formal credit is essential for their ability to obtain further funding and advance in their careers.

    Work patterns and behaviors have been disrupted forcing everyone to think and work differently

    In many respects, the impact on our work at ARTiFACTS has been minimal.  We’ve been a virtual company from the start. Our employees, contractors, board members and investors have routinely engaged with us mainly in virtual settings.  We engage with customers and partners on all continents virtually, but make no mistake, there are significant benefits that accrue from spending time in the same room. Both for strengthening social connections and communicating nuances for creating products, building community engagement and of course keeping advisors and investors current.

    In stark contrast, however, the impact on researchers and their institutions has been severe. University campuses are shuttered.  Some labs are closed or operating with limited access, slowing throughput at best.  Experiments that had been in-process have been terminated due to inability to operate under new distancing or safety requirements. Implementing new projects – especially those requiring scale and logistical support – are on hold, pending reduced uncertainty.  Notwithstanding these challenges, a most impressive upside from this crisis and its impacts on the execution of critical research is the behavioral change we observe from those scientists working at the coal-face of addressing this virus and its disease. 

    These researchers are proactively sharing their findings, foregoing the customary process of withholding data before submitting manuscripts for peer-review.  They are doing this in order to make their works accessible as rapidly as possible for others to build upon.  The better angels of human nature have taken hold with these “first-responders” of science, who are engaging in truly open science and for the betterment of society.  They are submitting papers to preprint servers for public access; Posting experimental data and analyses where colleagues may leverage them; and Making methods and protocols more transparent, to name a few.

    While it is premature to know how permanent these behaviors may become in the medical and life science disciplines – or beyond – we may be observing the beginnings of a new modality in scholarly communications.  One that academic journal publishers are closely watching – where the sharing of quality research early and openly by scientists may no longer prevent the subsequent acceptance and publication by some leading journals.  Indeed, such practices may become an expectation – a requirement if you will – for advancement, funding, and promotion in one’s chosen discipline.  Perhaps, “another brick in the scholarly publishing wall” may have just loosened or opens a pathway to new value for researchers and their publishers. 

    Having said this, we must also continue to ensure the protection of the privacy of those creators and their stakeholders who produce Intellectual Property of value that they choose to keep secure. Here, is it paramount to leave them in complete control over what information is shared, with whom and when.  Especially, when it becomes necessary for them to balance the potentially conflicting demands or objectives of openness with privacy.  

    Our plans for tackling these challenges over the coming months

    • We are putting the full weight of our platform behind the efforts of scientists across all disciplines to make their findings discoverable – when and with whom of their choosing. 
    • We’re keeping our platform open for scientists and researchers to secure the provenance of their research and receive formal citation acknowledgement for all their contributions, both published and unpublished works. 
    • We’re continuing to deliver on our roadmap by making our platform easier to use and embedded in the existing workflows of our user communities, who include: 
      • Scientists and researchers; 
      • Publishers, Journals and their editorial teams; 
      • Universities and research institutes; 
      • Funders of scientific and scholarly research, whether government or private charity; 
      • And public stakeholders interested is relying upon secured and credible research grounded in the scientific method.  Where transparent access both to claims and their supporting evidence are assured.

    This has been and will continue to be our mission at ARTiFACTS.