funded
PubWeave: Academic Publishing
Current Project Status
In Progress
Amount
Received
$160,000
Amount
Requested
$214,800
Percentage
Received
74.49%
Solution

A full-stack peer-review academic ecosystem where funding is secured by a treasury optimized for long-term sustainability. A democratized open publishing platform can make scholarly publishing thrive.

Problem

The academic publishing industry suffers from a centralization problem. Few journals benefit from the work of millions of scientists who provide their services for free and even pay to publish.

Impact / Alignment
Feasibility
Auditability

Intellart

1 member

  • Project Information
  • Community Reviews
  • Team Information
PubWeave: Academic Publishing

Please describe your proposed solution.

Centralized control of an industry has always ultimately led to a concentration of profit at the top of the hierarchy, at the expense of content creators. Classic examples of this are: the music industry where we have centralized middle-men having big industrial profit margins; social media that profits off of user data and where censorship is rampant. Even monetary custody has become a lucrative business for central bankers where profit generation comes from people's money, putting it at risk, hence the importance of self-custody. Thankfully, all of these issues can or have found solutions using blockchain technology. What we rarely think about is the scientific publishing industry that is one of the most lucrative businesses out there, where big journals gobble up most of the profit generated from scientists' work.

Big journals are to scientific articles what banks are to money. You forgo the rights and profits from your scientific articles because simply there is virtually no alternative. There is currently no infrastructure that allows you to retain ownership and profit from your published research.

One of the solutions to this problem that we found has already turned into a project of its own, and is nearing completion: <u>The OpenScienceNFT Marketplace</u>. In a nutshell, the osNFT marketplace would allow the author to associate an NFT to their already published peer-reviewed academic article.

We were successful in Funds 6 and 7 and have an MVP that is already deployed but not fully functional yet (we're getting close!):

  • MVP: <https://veritheum.intellart.ca/>.
  • Blog article celebrating our 1st place position in dApps and Integrations in Fund 7: <https://blog.intellart.ca/intellarts-openscience-nft-marketplace-receives-outstanding-support-from-the-cardano-community>.
  • Twitter account: @Veritheum.

Another part of the equation is for the author to keep the copyright of their work while simultaneously making it freely accessible to the public. This is known as 'Open Access Publishing'. So how is PubWeave different? And why does it need blockchain technology?

PubWeave is a full-stack decentralized peer-review academic publishing platform, where academic papers that have gone through the traditional process of review and editing can be published, with the added benefits of:

  1. Performing this process on the blockchain, ensuring permanence and transparency.
  2. Inheriting the benefits of inclusivity and censorship-resistance from the decentralization of the process.
  3. Being subsidized by a smart-contract enabled treasury management system that makes open-access the priority of the system.

The rest of this section will focus on point number 3 and flesh-out the mechanisms for it.

A little bit of background first for those unfamiliar with the academic publishing process: publishing a peer-reviewed scientific article costs a lot of money, either to publish in open-access (3000+ $) or to read the work (rent for 10-20$ per paper or ~30$ to buy). Profit margins from academic journals can go up to 40% for research that was <u>funded by public money</u>. What is more striking is this sentence from an article that did "A Strategic Analysis of the Academic Journal Publishing Industry": "two of the most important inputs to the production of a journal – the articles themselves and editorial review – are provided virtually free of charge to the publishers". The argument here is that journals provide value mainly through editing and publishing.

A simple 'cut-the-middleman' scenario here would automatically reduce around 40% of the cost, if not more, due to unnecessary administrative work. Moreover, if you include some strategic smart-contract enabled game theory design, we might even reduce the costs to 0 (!). How is this possible?

Offsetting the costs of editing and publishing would be possible under 3 scenarios:

  1. Grants.
  2. A pay-per-view model.
  3. A treasury.

Using grants to achieve our goal of free open publishing might help at first, but the system needs to be self-sufficient.

A pay-per-view model would theoretically work, as the reader would only pay a very small amount to interact with the paper, but might be complicated in practice, and people might not like the idea enough to try and install a wallet that would get siphoned as they scroll through the website.

In the end, a treasury would be the way to go. It could be filled in 2 ways:

  1. A model where 'rich' labs pay a premium and the 'poorer' labs get an exemption.
  2. An external system linked to the treasury that fills it automatically.

The first strategy is often used by open access academic journals, such as PLOS, and is not a bad idea to default to if the second strategy falls short or is deemed insufficient at times.

The second strategy is where the game theory comes into play. We mentioned before Veritheum, our OpenScience NFT Marketplace. This marketplace would be connected to PubWeave's treasury and each trade would have a fee going straight to the treasury. The more the marketplace is used, the faster the treasury is filled. So how do we ensure that the marketplace will create enough revenue to fill the treasury? By incentivizing token holders of the treasury management system. If we set a rule where token holders of PubWeave would receive dividends if and only if the treasury has a certain amount inside it, then PubWeave's token holders would become incentivized to work towards filling the treasury as fast as possible, thus ensuring that the open science process continues to operate smoothly. A DAO would contain the necessary elements for a successful governance of this system.

This leads us to PanDAO, our second project also funded by Project Catalyst in Funds 7 and 8. Many parts of it have already been integrated in Veritheum which you can experience while using the app (link provided above), but also follow and view track the progress on:

For more information about PanDAO's sustainable NFT standard, our Fund 8 proposal explains the challenges and our solutions, which are already being implementing: <https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/400494>.

PubWeave's UI is being built on Arweave, a decentralized data solutions network. Our MVP will authenticate users using the Finnie wallet and has an upload function to Arweave and a simple gallery view. You can view the code here: <https://github.com/Intellart/pubweave-auth>.

If you're interested in knowing more about the process of publishing in academia, we have a recent blog post explaining just this: <https://blog.intellart.ca/academic-publishing-explained>.

Please describe how your proposed solution will address the Challenge that you have submitted it in.

With the growing popularity of the "DeSci" movement and the vast potential for change within this wave, PubWeave (and Veritheum) are set to become a central part of it, creating a new paradigm in the way science is funded and monetized. An academic portal for peer-review publishing is not something new, but a decentralized, permissionless and censorship-resistant portal of this kind is.

Building this system would be a great catalyst for helping establish Cardano as the blockchain of choice for building world-changing applications. It would undeniably help onboard new people to Cardano who would have much to offer, as they would be mostly academics or at the very least science-inclined.

More importantly, subsidizing Open Access through a clever self-sufficient funding mechanism would lower the barrier of entry for countries, institutions and individuals wishing to partake in the scientific process. In a world with enormous financial disparities, where commodities are generally priced in western currencies, a big part of the world is left struggling for the same resources western institutions take for granted. Cardano and blockchain technology in general have a way of lowering the barrier of entry to the underprivileged, and that is our end-goal.

What are the main risks that could prevent you from delivering the project successfully and please explain how you will mitigate each risk?

We identify 3 major axes that can be considered risks.

  1. Scope – technological component.
  2. Cross-chain risk – security component.
  3. Traction – human component.

1) Many parts of PubWeave require heavy infrastructure, which is why we are building our tools from the ground up and why we are packaging our projects into smaller categories: PanDAO, Veritheum and PubWeave. Each of these projects stands on its own, and doesn't need the others to function, but together they create the final vision we have for our ecosystem. We like to view it as a big puzzle which gets constructed one part at a time. We have been designing our strategy carefully, so that in the unfortunate event that any of those projects might fail, it would not take away from the others. These projects were designed to be complimentary but independent. Notably, the reason for having PubWeave's submission delayed with regard to Veritheum and PanDAO is to focus on the building blocks over which PubWeave will be constructed. These 2 projects are now at a stage where we feel comfortable enough with their progress to start heavily investing in PubWeave (Funds 8 and 9 were always our target for PubWeave ever since we started with the osNFT marketplace in Fund 6). Note that PubWeave would still function without PanDAO, albeit with limited cross-chain compatibility; and would also work without Veritheum, but without a stream of funding replenishing its treasury, defaulting to other strategies for its open access publishing as detailed above. Thankfully, both PanDAO and Veritheum are progressing smoothly and are on track to make PubWeave live up to its full potential.

2) Cardano does not have a decentralized storage layer, which is why we've chosen Arweave due to the core principles of its technology that are closely aligned with those of decentralization, persistence and sustainability. However, these advantages bring with them the headaches that come with cross-chain communication and the security risks it entails. We solve this in 2 ways:

  • Assigning a specific toolset for cross-chain interactions: PanDAO, which is open-source and can benefit from potential collaborations and battle-testing, constraining the problem to one library instead of having each dApp needing to solve cross-chain issues on its own.
  • Purposefully limiting cross-chain capabilities of PubWeave (through PanDAO) to those strictly needed, and expanding slowly so that risks can be caught in time and mitigated.

3) One final potential risk to mention is the need for social traction required for any project to take off. This is typically solved by raising awareness and investing in marketing, which is the reason we have added a member to our team specialized in science communication (see team section). She has prior experience in maintaining a blog in Spanish (<https://www.quierociencia.com/>) but is also fluent in English and Portuguese, multilingualism being asset crucial to the success of our mission. Our blog can be reached at <https://blog.intellart.ca/> We have started twitter accounts (previous section) for pushing updates and interacting with the community. Go say hi if you'd like :)

At its essence, decentralized technology wants to be disruptive, and disruptive technology is never without its risks and challenges. Apart from the technical side of things, to us, the various collaborations we have had and continue to have and the trust of the Cardano community are an indication that we are on the right track. The scope is big and the plan is ambitious, but the growth we have seen over the past few months and the support from both the Cardano and Arweave communities is very encouraging.

Please provide a detailed plan, including timeline and key milestones for delivering your proposal.

Phase 1: Building [3 months; Total=3 months]

  • Full-time UI construction and integration with backend.
  • Full-time backend construction and integration with UI.
  • Full-time Plutus development.
  • Constant educational content creation as a form of marketing and outreach.

Phase 2: Deployment [3 months; Total=6 months]

  • Full-time UI construction and integration with backend.
  • Full-time backend construction and integration with UI.
  • 1 month of full-time Plutus development.
  • 1 month of full-time Cardano blockchain integration.
  • 1 month of Smartweave (Arweave) development.
  • 2-3 months of deployment and working out bugs as they arise.
  • Bridge the decentralized PubWeave UI to the Cardano blockchain.
  • Testing the platform with scientific preprint articles has started.
  • More educational content creation as a form of marketing and outreach.

Phase 3: Expansion [3 months; Total=9 months]

  • Deployment is done.
  • UI and backend are done and can communicate properly.
  • Cardano and Arweave integration is done.
  • PubWeave is used as a preprint server for scientific articles.
  • Gathering feedback and iterating with enhancements.
  • Heavy focus on content creation and community engagement, might exceed funds allocated by this proposal as this becomes top priority.

Phase 4 and beyond

  • PubWeave is used as a preprint and peer-reviewd server for scientific articles.
  • Establishment of editorial board.
  • Reviewers are signing up.
  • Gathering feedback and iterating with enhancements.
  • Community engagement is exponential.
  • Meetings, presentations and content creation are garnering more and more community engagement.
  • Positive feedback loop: check!

As mentioned already, our ecosystem is comprised of 3 main components: Veritheum, PanDAO and PubWeave. PubWeave is the subject of this proposal and contains parts that will have to be integrated with the other 2. As such, development is organically parallel, with all 3 components needing to communicate with each other.

In terms of workload, in the 'Team' section we mention a collaboration with external companies that do a lot of the heavy lifting and whose help is mainly limited by the funding we receive from Catalyst, meaning that additional funding will be scaling linearly with the work. The amounts we ask for are not enough to saturate the workforce of our collaborators.

Furthermore, even if we only consider the core team and not the external collaborators, this thinking only applies to the next 1-2 months, after which Veritheum will have been completed and PanDAO will be well over halfway complete, so there is a possibility that we might actually be able to finish this proposal faster if things continue with the same rythm as they have!

Please provide a detailed budget breakdown.

We have been fairly conservative in previous funds (prior to Fund 8) regarding our hourly wages. Since Fund 8, we have started collaborating with two software development companies and were made a bit more aware of the higher nature of the costs associated with this kind of development. We have thus increased the hourly rate by 10-15 % compared to Funds 6 and 7 and reduced the number of weeks of work to keep the funds we ask for reasonable with regard to the challenge's available funds. We are using here almost the same pricing as Fund 8.

  • Plutus smart contract engineering

80$/hour x 40h/week x 16 weeks (4 months) = 51,200 $

  • Cardano blockchain integration

70$/hour x 40h/week x 4 weeks (1 month) = 11,200 $

  • SmartWeave smart contract engineering

70$/hour x 30h/week x 4 weeks (1 month) = 8,400 $

  • DevOps

60$/hour x 40h/week x 8 weeks (2 months) = 19,200 $

  • UI/UX development

50$/hour x 40h/week x 24 weeks (6 months) = 48,000 $

  • Backend development

50$/hour x 40h/week x 24 weeks (6 months) = 48,000 $

  • Blog/Education/Marketing/Meetings

40$/hour x 50h/week x 24 weeks (6 months) = 28,800 $

<u>Total = 214,800 $</u>

Please provide details of the people who will work on the project.

Core team:

  • Albert Feghaly: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/albert-feghaly-28060a113>.

Project leader and blockchain developer (Plutus smart contracts).

  • Louis Gendron: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/louis-gendron-214ab0182>.

Web and blockchain developer (Arweave NFT data storage and permaweb hosting).

  • Jordan Quenneville: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordan-quenneville-64b18b114>.

Backend developer.

  • Jack Bauer: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/jack-bauer-6b688999>.

Science and art communicator, osNFT and logo design.

Personal store: <https://sciwalkart.bigcartel.com/>.

  • Ema Flores Diaz: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/ema-flores-diaz-905204137>.

Blog writer and community engagement.

Personal science blog (Spanish): <https://www.quierociencia.com/>.

Advisors:

  • Roger Palou: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/roger-palou-phd-b963622a>.

Academic advisor.

  • Tariq Daouda: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/tariqdaouda>.

Infrastructure and AI expert.

CEO and co-founder of Bluwr: <https://www.bluwr.com/>.

CEO and co-founder of Piercing Star Technologies.

Personal website: <https://www.tariqdaouda.com/>.

  • Maude Dumont-Lagacé: <https://www.linkedin.com/in/maude-dumont-lagace>.

Scientific advisor and art/design expert.

Co-founder of Piercing Star Technologies.

More information about the team can be found at <https://intellart.ca/#/team>

Many of the people listed here have published peer-reviewed scientific articles together as authors, attesting to our capacity of working together as a team.

Some examples:

  • <https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009482>
  • <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtct.2022.03.016>
  • <https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gky546>

In addition to the core team, we also outsource a significant part of the work and get the expertise of software development companies specialized in UI/UX and Haskell development. We are respecting their right to privacy and will not be naming them explicitely, but they have agree to have their contributions to the code publicly accessible through our Github repos referenced above.

We are also in talks with programmers who stated their interest in learning Haskell and Plutus and who might be joining us in the near future. Also, anyone who wishes to join us is welcome to contact us at any of the twitter accounts listed here or an [email protected]!

If you are funded, will you return to Catalyst in a later round for further funding? Please explain why / why not.

Yes, based on our previous experience with our 2 other projects, building a quality product takes time and skill, which we will most definitely need more of as we grow.

Our goal is well-stated to be that we aim for economic self-sufficiency, not only for salaries and development needs, but the engagement with our products needs to generate enough revenue for PubWeave to be able to fund open-access scientific publishing. We need to be practical, methodical and engaging, which is why we have started to focus on and invest heavily in outreach and marketing in the form of education and value engagement. One example is our series of blog articles which will be available in many languages: English for now, expanding to French and Spanish (which we are natively fluent in as a team).

While we build the community, infrastructure and tooling necessary for our ambitious plans, there is a high probability that we will need more support from Project Catalyst before we are self-funded.

Please describe what you will measure to track your project's progress, and how will you measure these?

Our project spans 2 big communities, Cardano and Arweave, and we are active in both. We are a visible and public team as you can see in the Youtube video down below. Moreover, our ethos is decentralization and permisionlessness, meaning that our efforts will always be put forward towards transparency, openness, and collaboration. Our code will be public, so that the community can follow our progress and interact with us.

Weekly updates are and will continue to be pushed to <https://intellart.ca/#/weeklyUpdate> in a succinct manner to allow for fast progress tracking and auditability. Moreover, we have started writing short blog articles on https://blog.intellart.ca which vary from project updates to educational content. As of this month, we have a new team member whose focus will be writing blog articles and focusing on community engagement.

The following quantifiable indicators will be used to track progress.

For Phase 1 – building phase – first 3 months :

  1. GitHub commits.
  2. <u>Aim</u>: 20-60 commits per week (range is big as commits can be qualitative too).
  3. Number of blog articles and new followers on Medium.
  4. <u>Aim</u>: 1 new article per month.
  5. <u>Aim</u>: 10 new subscribers per month.
  6. Catalyst progress report.
  7. <u>Aim</u> (mandatory): 1 publicly viewable report per month.
  8. Public presentations from our team, as we will need to increase awareness for our project.
  9. <u>Aim</u>: 2 new presentations by the end of this phase.

For Phase 2 – deployment phase – middle 3 months:

  1. GitHub commits.
  2. <u>Aim</u>: 10-30 commits per week.
  3. Number of academics/institutions expressing interest in our platform.
  4. <u>Aim</u>: 1 new institution in talks with our team every month.
  5. Number of blog articles and new followers on Medium.
  6. <u>Aim</u>: 2 new articles per month.
  7. <u>Aim</u>: 20 new subscribers per month.
  8. Catalyst progress report.
  9. <u>Aim</u> (mandatory): 1 publicly viewable report per month.
  10. Public presentations from our team, as we will need to increase awareness for our project.
  11. <u>Aim</u>: 3 new presentations by the end of this phase.

For Phase 3 – expansion phase – last 3 months:

  1. GitHub commits.
  2. <u>Aim</u>: 5-20 commits per week.
  3. Number of academics/institutions expressing interest in our platform.
  4. <u>Aim</u>: 3 new institution in talks with our team every month.
  5. Number of blog articles and new followers on Medium.
  6. <u>Aim</u>: 2 new articles per month.
  7. <u>Aim</u>: 50 new subscribers per month.
  8. Catalyst progress report.
  9. <u>Aim</u> (mandatory): 1 publicly viewable report per month.
  10. Public presentations from our team, as we will need to increase awareness for our project.
  11. <u>Aim</u>: 5 new presentations by the end of this phase.
  12. Researchers signing up to PubWeave:
  13. <u>Aim</u>: 10 new researchers signing up per week.
  14. Preprints uploaded to PubWeave:
  15. <u>Aim</u>: 5 new preprints uploaded per week.

Finally, as these kinds of projects usually grow exponentially in nature, after a year or two of marketing and community engagement, we should expect new enrollments in the 100s and 1000s of people. However, for the initial phases listed above, getting 10s of people per day/week engaging with us at a time when our focus is still on the development and deployment of the product should be viewed as a sign of success.

Additionally, because this project is deeply connected with Arweave's architecture, we have been in contact with their team, more specifically Arweave's Program Manager and Developer Relations, <u>Jesse Pariselli</u>, who invited us to talk about PubWeave during Arweave's Open Web Foundry 5, Community Spotlight #5 which is available on YouTube.

Here is the link for those interested. PubWeave's presentation starts at minute 30:30.

<https://www.youtube.com/embed/R9pP08sRWQI?start=1830>You can find/reach us at:

  • https://intellart.ca
  • <https://github.com/Intellart>
  • <https://twitter.com/Veritheum> / <https://twitter.com/OpenScienceNFT>

What does success for this project look like?

A sneak-peek into an ideal future (say, 2 years) would show a platform which has enough funds in its treasury to finance all scientific publications for the next 10 years. Academic institutions are starting to collaborate with us, and some idealistic young researchers are publishing with us. Our editorial board is growing and the peer-review system is evolving.

More on the medium term, we will have decentralized most of our UI on Arweave and most interactions are happening on-chain on Cardano. Users can link their address to publications they own/follow and a network of DIDs is starting to take shape.

On the shorter term, users and authors will be uploading their open-source scientific articles as a pre-print to test out the platform, and it starts gaining traction.

Please provide information on whether this proposal is a continuation of a previously funded project in Catalyst or an entirely new one.

This is a new project and is not the continuation of a previous project. However, it builds upon previous projects: Veritheum (OpenScienceNFT Marketplace) and PanDAO (Interoperability and dDataStorage).

This proposal is part of a broader ecosystem which was kickstarted with the success of our Fund 6 'Open Science NFT' proposal, which continued with a success in Fund 7. It also build upon infrastructure which is being undertaken by our 'PanDAO' suite of tools (also successful in Funds 7 and 8) to attain its full potential: A truly decentralized, censorship-resistent and permissionless peer-review ecosystem armed with a treasury to fund open access scientific articles.

<u>Here is the list of all our previously funded proposals:</u>

<u>[Fund 6] osNFTs for science popularization:</u> <https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/369965>.

<u>[Fund 7] OpenScienceNFT Marketplace:</u> <https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/384826>.

<u>[Fund 7] PanDAO: Focus on interoperability:</u> <https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/384816>.

<u>[Fund 8] PanDAO: Focus on dDataStorage: </u><https://cardano.ideascale.com/c/idea/400494>.

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