The new digital, decentralized economy needs academic validation

It is a pivotal moment in the development of the new digital economy. Interest in all things crypto keeps growing exponentially, and investment follows closely. There has arguably never been so much money poured into a product class that was so poorly understood, both by the wider public and by most investors. In lieu of actual understanding, stakeholders in the crypto space have to operate on reputation and trust instead. This necessity has given rise to a dangerous new con.

Unlike blatant scams like OneCoin or Bitconnect, today’s blockchain opportunists and confidence tricksters often play the faux science card. “Read our white paper here,” “Look at this research report we uploaded to arXiv,” “Download our dataset” — sounds legit, right? There is just one crucial element missing: academic validation.

Not all papers are created equal

Anyone can put together a “white paper” and make it available to download. In 2018, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission taught gullible crypto investors a valuable lesson. It set up a fake initial coin offering for the fictitious “HoweyCoin” that prominently featured a white paper as a token (pun intended) of trustworthiness. By contrast, only a trained researcher, most likely with a Ph.D. and extensive knowledge in the field, can have a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. This is the gold standard to which the distributed ledger technology, or DLT, space should aspire.

You would not put a vaccine into your arm that was developed by college dropouts who did not let experts in biochemistry and immunology verify their work. So, why should you put your finances, your personal data and your automated devices into DLT solutions that were not rigorously vetted?

Academic validation starts with peer review

Peer review is a key aspect of academic validation. It describes the practice of experts in a scientific field checking each others’ research findings for flaws and inconsistencies, pre-…

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