A team of researchers plans to create what may be the world’s first scientific research published as a non-fungible token (NFT). This is with the hopes of funding a replication of the study to confirm the science using the proceeds from the NFT sale.
On Wednesday, Columbia University PhD candidate Matt Stephenson shared on Twitter a plan to publish a study natively as a NFT — something he claims is probably a world first.
The reason that researchers are choosing to mint a NFT — which, in case you’ve forgotten, are unique digital objects that are authenticated using a system like the blockchain — is because it’s a way of making money to fund an important part of the scientific process.
Coming this week from Planck: the first (?) empirical scientific result published natively as an NFT.
We’re using proceeds from the sale to fund a replication.
And the study is a doozy.
— Matt Stephenson (@stephensonhmatt) March 23, 2021
“Coming this week from Planck: the first (?) empirical scientific result published natively as an NFT,” he tweeted.
“We’re using proceeds from the sale to fund a replication. And the study is a doozy.”
Stephenson says that proceeds from the sale will be used to fund a repeat of the experiment.
One of the biggest problems in science is how incentives in academia and industry encourage reporting positive results and, importantly, doesn’t incentivise replication.
Because a positive finding (‘turns out that Diet Coke DOES cause cancer’) is more interesting than a negative finding (‘Diet Coke doesn’t cause cancer’), journals are more likely to publish the former than the latter, even though both are important if you’re a Diet Coke drinker.
As well, sometimes scientific findings are flukes. Like, a study on whether Diet Coke causes cancer might by luck just end up with research participants who were just by chance going to get cancer either way. That’s why replica studies are needed to see whether the original study’s findings hold up. But they’re also not as easy to get funded because they’re not as exciting as a new study, even if they are important.
Bringing this back to NFTs, Stephenson is hoping to change this. He said that researchers will release the results of their study — only if people fund the replica study. If they pull this off, they could create a new model for funding science using NFTs, something that’s arguably more useful than how the technology is being used elsewhere.