Science and Web3: Do NFTs offer a way to democratize and increase funding for science?


Wouldn’t it be nice to have democratized science (science consisting of projects that satisfy the preferences of every possible group in society, such as pursuing biomedical research or studying social phenomena that are only relevant to a very small number of people)? of course! However, many would say this is a utopian vision that is unlikely to come true. Simply put, while scientists submit many good projects to funding agencies, each representing the needs of a specific group, not all of them are funded due to the limited capacity of the public system. For example, in 2020, the European Research Council (ERC) awarded start-up grants to only 13% of applicants. This shows that we are far from an idealistic, democratized vision of science funding, as we cannot fund most research projects.

Given this situation, we have two better avenues for dealing with funding shortfalls if we wish to move towards democratizing science. First, and more painfully, the choice of research projects reflects the preferences of different groups more than others. Kitcher (2001 p. 123), introducing his idealistic view that science should move towards an ideal organization, makes a similar point: “Ordered science” requires “…the institutions that govern the practice of inquiry in society, always in Three aspects of the survey yielded results consistent with the judgments of ideal reviewers representing the distribution of views in society. Another, more pleasing avenue is to find alternative ways of funding science by establishing a dialogue with the private sector.

We all agree that the latter approach is preferable. For certain scientific activities, scientists have a long tradition of collaboration with industry. Such funding differs from public funding in many ways and raises many issues (for a review of these issues, see Holman and Elliott 2018). For example, private companies can selectively fund research to manipulate the overall evidence (Elliott and McKaughan 2009; Holman and Bruner 2017). Another problem is that while industry funds research, it also maintains control over the intellectual property (IP) represented by the entire research process and results, thus potentially slowing the growth of scientific knowledge by reducing the accessibility of those results ( Sterckx 2010; Biddle 2014) Most importantly, in general, the purpose of this kind of funding is different from that of public funding: it aims to fund research that can bring direct financial (or other) benefits to the companies involved. There’s nothing wrong with that in itself, although it’s probably not the best way to fund most research projects. For example, even if exercise can alleviate depression, it is unlikely to receive attention from the private sector because it is unlikely to generate profits (Musschenga, van der Steen, and Ho 2010)

Thus, the private sector could substantially increase funding for science, but mostly in one direction, possibly benefiting only certain social groups. What about democratization? The Internet has opened up possibilities for the public sector to move towards a higher level of democratization of science. The first important step was the emergence of scientific crowdfunding (Wilson 2019; Sauermann et al. 2019), which enabled Internet users to fund projects they found interesting by using various Internet sites (such as Experiment), even if only by contributing a sum of 1 Dollar tokens. Currently, we are at the beginning of a new economic revolution in the digital world: Web3, which promises to decentralize the internet and take it away from giants like Google or Facebook. It also enables a new decentralized approach to managing and funding scientific research.

One aspect of Web3, Research Non-Fungible Tokens (rNFTs), could serve as a way to increase and democratize scientific funding as they serve as proof of ownership of digital assets. Funding research through the creation of rNFTs should be understood as a way of crowdfunding science in a Web3 world, which is in some ways similar to crowdfunding in Web2, but quite different in many others.

What is a non-fungible token (NFT)?

The history of the Internet is generally divided into three periods (Voshmgir 2019). First, in the early days:

Web1, when the Internet was primarily a “read-only” phenomenon. We can surf the web to get information, but the social function is very weak. Popular websites are similar to encyclopedias, dictionaries, personal bulletin boards, etc.

Then, around 2003-04, the web shifted to include a more social way of interacting online. This is Web2, which features websites that can interact and collaborate on a global scale. People not only read websites, but also write on them, contributing to their growth. Examples include wiki, Twitter, and Facebook. Although Web2 currently dominates our lives, it contains a component that is problematic for many: Specifically, various interactions are performed by a third party, a platform that acts as a trusted intermediary between two people.

Web3 brings us into a new decentralized world. Mainly, it allows us to eliminate intermediaries and enjoy direct P2P interactions. In other words, it enables users to perform various interactions directly. For example, cryptocurrencies, a digital currency such as Bitcoin, can be transferred directly P2P in Web3, whereas when we transfer “classic” currencies online, we need banks as intermediaries. This is a game changer!

Web3 is enabled by many technological developments, but without a doubt, its backbone is the technology known as blockchain. A blockchain is a decentralized ledger hosted simultaneously by multiple participants (called nodes). The ledger is a growing database of blocks that are linked together using cryptographic methods. In a blockchain, transactions are created by applications called wallets or clients, collected by miners and stored in blocks. New blocks can only be added to the ledger after they are algorithmically verified by independent participants in the system, each with their own copy of the ledger.

The structure of the blockchain explains why it is the backbone of Web3 and how it helps remove intermediaries, which is only necessary when users are unaware and cannot trust each other. In a blockchain, trust is provided by nodes, who check (and pay for it) to ensure transactions are consistent with their ledger. Otherwise, in most cases, the transaction will not proceed. This makes it very difficult to hack or cheat because a potential hacker would have to change the ledger of all nodes, which seems almost impossible since nodes could be scattered all over the world. For a fuller introduction, read Lewis (2021)

This brief introduction is enough to continue the topic of this article: NFTs.

Let’s start by explaining what a token on a blockchain is in a general way: just a piece of software code with a specific function and a unique identifier, and thus a unit of digital data, including some that can be “pushed” and “pulled”. ” pre-programmed levers. The most famous examples of tokens are cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. In cryptocurrencies, these digital units are fungible and exchangeable. Each unit has a serial number, but otherwise, a bitcoin is the same as any other bitcoin for those wishing to transact. However, there are other types of tokens with various classifications and uses depending on the attributes assigned to them.

Now we can ask a question: what is a non-fungible token?

NFTs are also units of data stored on the blockchain (usually on Ethereum). Although this storage is based on the same technology used for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, it is fundamentally different, containing additional information that makes it unique. So while you can exchange one bitcoin for another, you can’t do the same with NFTs. Every NFT stored on the blockchain is unique. Thus, when associated with a given digital asset (picture, music), NFTs give it a unique identity (some call it a digital “passport”) because even though the digital files themselves are infinitely reproducible, the NFTs are tracked on their underlying blockchain. This feature makes NFTs a perfect candidate to serve as a certificate of title for digital art; therefore, it can be bought and sold.

Considering that sometimes people learning NFTs (like myself) get a little confused, we need to explain a bit more here. What is stored on the blockchain is not the digital items themselves (such as .jpg, .gif, and audio files), but data units associated with digital items stored elsewhere (for example, the website OpenSea). Therefore, the NFT on the blockchain is not the file itself, but a piece of data that indicates that its owner is the owner of the corresponding original file. This is similar to a notarial deed of ownership compared to real estate, which is not an apartment but written data confirming that its holder is the owner of the apartment. Of course, there are many differences. The real estate example only involves an apartment, and in the case of a digital project, the original website that originally hosted it may no longer exist, and the files may exist in a different place. So which file is the original file? Wherever it is, at least we know who owns the original first copy, which is certified by the NFT.

Of course, this way of representing digital ownership will evolve in the future, but this original way of representing ownership of digital items has recently been used to sell such items on a large scale. The biggest and most famous in recent weeks was the sale of Beeple’s Everydays: The first 5,000 days by Christie’s for about $65 million. Another big winner in the marketplace game is Jack Dorsey, who sold his first NFT tweet for about $2.9 million. These are just two well-known examples. In general, people are selling different digital assets such as parts of music, short video clips, creative images, etc. (OpenSea and Rarible are the most popular markets).

Scientists have also taken the opportunity to participate in this market (Jones 2021). UC Berkeley auctioned NFTs based on documents related to the work of cancer researcher James Allison, who shared the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Tasuko Honjo for more than $50,000. Likewise, George Church and the Nebula Company are selling 20 NFTs, each associated with art about Church, and offering special discounts for Nebula’s whole-genome sequencing service.

Research the concept of non-fungible tokens (rNFTs)

Getting money to fund future research is one of the most important questions scientists grapple with. This raises the question: can we fund future research by selling NFTs?

To date, there has been little work in this area. However, it is possible to use NFTs to fund research, as the Planck Corporation has demonstrated under the direction of its founder, Columbia University doctoral student Matthew Stephenson, which managed to sell for around 13.5 ETH (cryptocurrency, auction, auction, etc.) was valued at about $24,000 at the time) for its Open Source Science Manuscript 1. The purpose is to fund a replication study of Seth Roberts’ theory of appetite. VitaDAO recently reached another major milestone, a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) aimed at funding longevity research. The idea here is slightly different from the previous case, where a single investor buys NFTs to fund research. Investors buy VITA tokens here, fund research, and subsequently participate in decision-making through their ownership of these tokens, such as managing VitaDAO’s assets and research. For example, they can vote on which research project should be funded.

Most recently, they decided to use about $325,000 to fund a project run by the Scheiibye-Knudsen lab called Longevity Molecule (IPNFT) by owning NFTs. For more information, read this blog post. Then, Adrian Stencel of Jagiellonian University (yes, that’s me!) sold the first Philosophy NFT for about 0.4 ETH (~$1,600 at auction) to execute the project “Holography” at the intersection of philosophy and biology The ontology of the holobiont”).

Here, based on the three examples above, I would like to introduce the concept of research NFTs (rNFTs). So, what is rNFT?

It is a “credit token” issued by scientists to obtain project funding. Tokens may be open manuscripts, video clips, data, graphic summaries, music, etc. — whatever the scientist thinks best represents his or her project. In exchange for money, scientists provide the performance of certain research tasks. Therefore, by purchasing these rNFTs, investors convert their funds into future value by trusting the scientists. Once the project is complete, references to these rNFTs will be placed in the “Funding Sources” section of the final scientific paper. Thus, when the paper is published, the token becomes proof of funding for the project. So, in a sense, rNFTs operate like a global funding agency, providing funding and credit to scientists who should then complete the research they promised in their grant application and endorse the agency when the results come in .

The idea that NFTs can be used for science is not entirely new. This possibility has been raised by many people on internet blogs before (see here or here). However, these folks are primarily concerned with “mediums,” such as identifying the best digital medium for NFTs designed to serve science. For example, the Planck firm founded by Matt Stephenson advocates the use of digital manuscripts, which is certainly a good idea. Having original manuscripts of scientific papers that changed the way we see the world is very important in itself. People often buy manuscripts by famous scientists for a number of reasons. Bill Gates, for example, purchased Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, the Codex of Leicester, for about $30 million.

However, while I think these instances are appropriate, there is no need to put one digital item over another. The digital world is full of endless possibilities, offering many items that can be used as research tokens. rNFTs are just a way of accepting the fact that different types of digital items can be used as certificates of financial support for a given item. An rNFT is simply a type of NFT created to obtain funding for a specific research project. rNFTs are also very similar to IP NFTs (IP: Intellectual Property Rights) and are used to represent fully legal intellectual property rights and data access controls for biopharmaceutical research. However, rNFTs represent a broader category, as it may involve cases where fundamental research does not give investors intellectual property. This makes IP NFTs a special category within the rNFT space.

What are the benefits for investors and scientists?

Funding research through the creation of rNFTs has the potential to bring many benefits to scientists, of which additional funding streams are the most important. In principle, there is no upper or lower limit. However, it is likely that different strategies will have to be implemented to fund different types of research. For example, if research does not require a huge budget, then creating a single rNFT and selling it to a single investor may be an appropriate strategy. This was done by Stephenson and Stencel. However, some science projects are known to require huge budgets. In this case, it is better to attract multiple investors. DAOs seem to be a better way to fund projects of this scale, such as the aforementioned VitaDAO, which funds very expensive longevity research. Overall, the diversity of blockchain enables scientists to apply for different types of projects through various channels.

As such, rNFTs may prove to be a valuable addition to funding agencies. It is well known that most prospective studies fail to receive funding due to the limited capacity of the public system. As a result, scientists often need to deal with the private sector to obtain funding. Since individuals or groups of individuals may fund research of interest to even small groups, rNFTs may open up the private sector to a greater extent. Imagine you’re studying the geographic distribution of a very specific genus (genus in biology) or the work of a less popular philosopher, or, simply put, a reproduction study. Getting funding from funding agencies can be difficult unless you conduct research using some form of advanced advanced technology. Or maybe it’s just because you’re out of luck with the reviewers – just like us! However, if you create an rNFT, your project may get funding because people in the public sector may be very interested in it.

This sounds promising. Projects that cannot get funding through standard channels can get funding through the help of the public. In addition, individuals can directly participate in the selection process by indicating the direction in which they would like the science to develop. But does funding science by creating rNFTs help fund projects that are unlikely to be funded classically? Or maybe they will only help the research of already successful scientists?

To date, the use of rNFTs has been very limited. However, rNFTs are just one way to practice the science of crowdfunding in the Web3 world. Therefore, we can refer to research on this topic to realize the potential of rNFT. This potential is positive in many ways. First, crowdfunding can help fund projects that are unlikely to be funded through classical means (Sauermann et al. 2019; Wilson 2019). Second, they help fund research for groups that often face discrimination in the classic funding model. For example, an analysis by Sauermann et al. (2019) showed that women, in general, raised more money than men across all age groups when trying out crowdfunding projects. Junior scientists also do better. Crowdfunding may therefore help fund the work of academics who have difficulty obtaining funding through classical channels, such as women (Oliveira et al., 2019) and junior scientists (Alberts et al., 2014), as well as in traditional funding systems the disadvantaged. Third, research shows that crowdfunding helps to de-regionalize funding (Sorenson et al. 2016). Overall, crowdfunding appears to have positively contributed to the democratization of science by enabling different groups to fund new projects. Since Web3 is primarily concerned with the decentralization of the Internet, tools such as NFTs can only enhance the potential of crowdfunding science and allow more researchers and investors to participate in such science.

However, this democratization of science raises a problem. Can non-scientists choose between science and pseudoscience? Distinguishing the two is not easy, even for philosophers and scientists (see Hansson 2008). Furthermore, choosing between projects of good and bad quality can be problematic, as laypeople are often not sufficiently trained to evaluate grant proposals (Chan et al. 2017). Although this may seem like a serious problem because we don’t want to fund pseudoscience or really bad science. One idea presented by Vitalik Buterin (here) is that the problem might be easily solved by leveraging “good luck” rNFTs through the interaction of rNFT creators and funding agencies. In short, some trusted institution will “bless” the token, providing some reason to buy it. We know that while funding agencies handle many good projects, they cannot fund all of them. This raises a philosophical question: how should we fund science (eg Kitcher 2001)? In this case, funding agencies may bless some rNFTs based on projects they evaluate well but decide not to fund themselves. As a result, investors can be confident that the projects they are backing are in good financial health.

This sounds promising, but you might be asking, “How does this benefit me?” How will investors benefit from buying rNFTs? In fact, they may benefit quite a bit. The first and most basic is the certificate of ownership of the rNFT in question. When purchasing tokens, investors become curators of scientific projects. Investors can post a certificate of ownership on their company website as evidence of financial support for scientific activity. This can be important in establishing a company’s image of being involved in scientific development. In addition, sometimes investors may acquire certain intellectual property rights from research, such as the longevity study mentioned above, the Longevity Molecule (IPNFT). The investor may also benefit emotionally because he or she will be backing a great scientific project that may change the way we think about a topic. For example, can you imagine what it would be like to own an rNFT from Darwin’s Beagle? How wonderful to know that your grant to Darwin led to the discovery of one of the most important theories in history! I am willing to spend a fortune to own it.

This brings us to another benefit of investing in rNFTs. Contrary to many other ways in which the private sector funds basic science, rNFTs offer the opportunity to make money directly from the success of related projects. If the results are very interesting, the associated rNFT may appreciate in value, and some people may be happy to buy from the original investors, so they can tell everyone that they own the rNFT that funds these fantastic discoveries. This solves a problem with crowdfunding science – in contrast to other types of crowdfunding, where science rarely offers pre-sale items (Wheat et al. 2019). In the case of rNFTs, interested individuals may be offered digital items that they may subsequently sell if their value increases. If not, at least they’ll have items that might mean something to them.

From a scientist’s perspective, the opportunity to make money directly from the project’s success by reselling rNFTs should also be interesting. An important feature of NFTs is that the original author can receive royalties after each resale. The money thus obtained can be used, for example, to provide scholarships to students or to do replication research – we really need replication research! (See Open Science Collaboration 2015). Therefore, scientists should not only be interested in selling NFTs, but also contribute to subsequent resale, for example, by actively promoting their research results. In other words, the scientist benefits from selling the rNFT; subsequently, by publishing the results, the owner of the NFT may benefit from an increase in its value and the resulting resale, in which case the same scientist may pass Benefit again by collecting royalties. The potential to sell “publicity certificates” for scientific projects and collect associated royalties, which is not possible in classic Web2 science crowdfunding, creates the potential for shared economic benefits, thus creating various collaborations between scientists and investors — in a direct way that has probably never been seen in history.

How Elon Musk Can Ruin Your Budget: The Problem with Using rNFTs

There are also some issues related to this type of funding. First, blockchain technology requires a lot of energy to prevent potential corrupt practices, adding a lot of carbon footprint (Jones 2021). Should scientists rely on this technology, even if it increases funding sources? Many will say no because we are fighting climate change. Scientists are at the forefront of this fight, trying to develop new ways to reduce carbon dioxide production (eg Edwin Geo et al. 2021). Businesses are also aware of the problems posed by climate change and are increasingly reluctant to support projects that increase carbon dioxide production. For example, Tesla initially allowed cryptocurrencies to be used to buy their cars, but later reversed that decision, arguing that cryptocurrencies would add too much to their carbon footprint. Of course, this problem is not insoluble. Businesses and society are likely to turn to greener cryptocurrencies such as Cardano, or to redesign existing cryptocurrencies to reduce their carbon footprint, rather than abandon them entirely.

The second issue has to do with the existence of a “social infrastructure” to obtain funding for research projects. According to an analysis by Sauermann et al. (2019), scientific projects are more likely to receive funding if they are advertised on websites dedicated to scientific crowdfunding, such as Experiment (, the leading venue for such crowdfunding in the Web2 world. Unfortunately, there is no website dedicated to selling rNFTs. This should come as no surprise, as the first projects funded through NFTs only date back to the last few months. This suggests that obtaining funds through this channel may be more difficult at present than through classic Web2. And, it does. However, in the future this problem should go away. I see two potential solutions.

The first and most obvious is the creation of a website or sub-site dedicated to scientific projects for an existing NFT marketplace. As a result, scientists will no longer have to compete directly with artists selling large-scale projects like Bored Apes or Saitama. These sites should appear soon and hopefully will be very similar to the existing scientific approach to crowdfunding. The second solution is more exciting, at least from the perspective of scientists and investors. Specifically, the emergence of multiple DAOs would be the perfect way to fund science by creating NFTs, similar to the aforementioned VitaDAO. Additionally, there are many communities that bring together scientists working on specific topics, so there is a suitable structure to turn them into DAOs. How could this happen? Based on VitaDAO, I suggest that members of these associations may decide to create tokens and sell them to outside individuals. In this way, they can get funds to fund research, and the owner of the token can get the right to decide the future of research, as well as other benefits (depending on the DAO, such as intellectual property). Scientists can then make proposals in the form of NFTs and ask the DAO to fund them. Since a given DAO is created on the basis of a community of experts, the community will evaluate a given project to verify that it is methodologically correct, and then let members decide whether it should be funded by purchasing a particular NFT. In this way, we can create an effective symbiotic relationship between experts and non-experts, with possible financial benefits for both parties. Additionally, it may help scientists fund their projects because they will reach out to communities that are particularly interested in the type of research they conduct. Therefore, valid options exist to create space for funding science by creating NFTs.

At the end of this subsection, I want to discuss a technical issue: volatility.

Cryptocurrencies are considered very speculative assets as their value can drop or rise significantly in just a few hours. For example, after El Salvador adopted cryptocurrencies as legal tender, Bitcoin fell by 11% — a very large drop. Sometimes such declines may simply be the result of statements made by major public figures, such as Elon Musk saying he will not accept bitcoin payments. This is a bit problematic and very different from classic scientific crowdfunding in the Web2 world, because while you might raise money for research one day, the value of a given cryptocurrency might plummet the next day, leaving you without enough money to start the project, (on the other hand, if you are lucky, the price may go up). This is a problem because usually people sell NFTs in exchange for cryptocurrencies. Of course, the perfect solution is to use stablecoins such as Tether, as they are backed enough to resist volatility. Unfortunately, most NFT markets are part of the Ethereum blockchain, and its Ethereum currency is vulnerable to volatility. Alternatively, investors may rely on DAOs, taking any potential risk themselves, while scientists receive funding for their NFTs, as was the case with VitaDAO backing longevity molecules (IPNFTs). Overall, volatility is a considerable challenge for the practice of funding science using rNFTs, but there are clearly ways to address this challenge.

The future is digital and decentralized

All in all, the use of rNFTs appears to be an interesting complementary approach to funding scientific projects and democratizing the science funding process. Mainly, many new financing methods (NFT, DAO, etc.) have been introduced, creating potential for the financing of more projects. Of course, as mentioned above, it’s not without its problems. Nonetheless, I believe scientists should be more aware of Web3’s impending dominance. The digitization of our lives will progress and we can be sure that blockchain will play an important role. NFTs are just one of many possible tools in this emerging decentralized web that could be of great use to science in the near future.


13% of applicants:


《Beeple’s Everydays: The first 5000 days》:

First NFT tweet: .html

OpenSea :



20 NFTs:


(Open Source Science Manuscript 1):


Longevity Molecule (IPNFT):

(The ontology of the holobiont): him-today.html





Bored Apes : https: //


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