How Blockchain Enables Self-governance by Scientists

Image: Election of block producers

DEIP is a decentralized research platform governed by scientists. What mechanisms enable its self-governance and how does it work? Alex Shkor, blockchain architect and founder of the DEIP platform takes us through the thinking that has gone into the development of the DEIP model.

DEiP public testnet – beta

DEIP is running a public testnet—a beta of its blockchain. If your new to blockchain technology and want to start learning, or if your an existing blockchain user, now is the right time to explore DEIP’s platform. Join the DEIP testnet to run a node, simulate transactional activity and contribute to the future development of science.

To build a platform like DEIP — governed exclusively by the scientific community — we needed to create a protocol and the economic model where the main merit would be the scientific contribution. For this, we developed DEIP blockchain, at the core of which is our own consensus algorithm — Delegated Proof of Expertise Contribution (DPoEС).

Any public blockchain is run by block producers (BPs) — decentralized bodies who keep blockchain running. Consensus algorithm defines the process of how block producers are selected as well as the order in which they produce blocks. There are multiple different algorithms, each introduces different trade-offs and levels of decentralization.

The fact that DPoEC consensus is delegated means that DEIP members should not necessarily participate in executing decisions, like network maintenance, themselves. Instead, they can delegate it to block producers who will perform platform governance on their behalf, which is more convenient.

Block producers in DPoEC are elected by voting members, whose power of vote is defined by the level of their scientific contribution. To make this work, we needed to find a way to measure their contribution and reflect it on the blockchain.

Expertise Tokens as a measure of scientific contribution. How they work

The solution we found is Expertise Tokens. They are specific to each scientific discipline and reflect an expertise contribution of a member to this discipline. Expertise Tokens are not transferable, one can’t buy or sell them, it is only possible to earn them by making a contribution to science within a specific discipline.

The mathematical algorithm constantly allocates Expertise Tokens and distributes them (a) across disciplines and (b) then within each discipline among its active research projects depending on their assessment by the scientific community; the higher the grading of an assessment, the more Expertise Tokens are distributed. Research projects are also assessed  the same tokens.

Image: Expertise token emission

Expertise Tokens as a governance tool

Expertise Tokens are the main tokens on which decentralization of the platform is based. Specific to each discipline, they are used both for governance within these disciplines (for example to influence grant distribution among research projects) and as governance tokens for the whole system.

Block producers, on the one hand, are very powerful, because they can decide on changes in protocol. On the other hand, they have this power only because it is delegated by the scientific community. If decisions made by the ‘block producer’ delegates are not aligned with its interest, community members can always withdraw their votes from them or even change all block producers. If we compare it with Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) (Bitshares), it allows for a situation when a block producer has so many liquid tokens that no one can beat his/her stake and withdraw votes from them; in DPoEС such a situation, when block producers can dictate their own rules over the community, is practically impossible.

It’s also important that not only the economic model of the protocol is governed by the scientific community, but also the whole infrastructure of DEIP blockchain. It means that the volume of decentralized storage, computation power, transactions throughput models etc., will always strive to be adjusted in a way beneficial for the scientific community.

Principles for how block producers in DPoE are selected

Block producers are responsible for creating blocks, maintaining the functioning of the protocol and preventing malicious transactions to be included in blocks. To ensure that DEIP block producers are trustworthy, all block producer candidates should publicly expose their decision making principles and goals regarding the platform: provide their roadmap on how they see the future of DEIP, how they will be evolving the platform, how they are going to decide on changes in protocol, and what type of changes they will support. They will also elaborate on plans for promoting DEIP platform, raising the profile of its community, etc. If a block producer skips block production for 24 hours, it will be removed from BP list and its signing key will be reset.

Block production schedule

DEIP blockchain is run by twenty-one block producers who are constantly changing. Their order is defined by the block production schedule that lasts one round of twenty-one blocks (one minute and three seconds). The schedule is shuffled using pseudo-random algorithm based on the seed from the prior block, and each block producer is assigned a slot when he or she should produce a block. In every schedule twenty BPs are selected from top voted candidates, and one BP’s time-shared among all the other candidates.

Community voting for twenty block producers

Each expert on the platform can vote for up to thirty 30 BP candidates; an expert votes with all his or her Expertise Tokens at once. Twenty top-voted candidates are included in active block producers list and are eligible to produce and sign blocks. It means they set a public key and start signing blocks with the private key.

‘Running contest’ for the 21st block producer

The goal of this mechanism is to give other candidates a second chance to become a BP notwithstanding how many votes they have got. The process is based on a kind of a ‘running contest’ scheme, and all BP candidates who take part in this process are called ‘runners’. The main idea of this contest is to be the closest BP to some starting point, which also moves with all runners.

References

‘DEIP | The Science Blockchain’. Accessed 17 September 2018. https://www.deip.world/.

Shkor, Alex. ‘DEIP: DECENTRALIZED RESEARCH PLATFORM’, 2018. https://deip.world/WP_DEIP_ENG.pdf.

Deip-Testnet Source and Manual on GitHub. 2018. Reprint, DEIP Foundation, 2018. https://github.com/DEIPworld/deip-testnet.

Bitshares. ‘Delegated Proof-of-Stake Consensus – BitShares’. Accessed 17 September 2018. https://bitshares.org/technology/delegated-proof-of-stake-consensus/.

The article can also be read in DEIP Medium Blog. If you have any questions about the article, feel free to e-mail the author alex@deip.world.


DOI: 10.25815/QAYK-FS90

Citation format: The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition

Shkor, Alex. ‘How Blockchain Enables Self-Governance by Scientists’, 2018. https://doi.org/10.25815/QAYK-FS90.

Alex Shkor

Posted by Alex Shkor

Blockchain architect with over 9 years in designing distributed systems. Held executive positions in successful blockchain and IT companies, 6 years as a CTO and Head of R&D Department in IT company with 100 employees. Recognized expert in blockchain architecture and crypto economic models design. Regularly gives lectures and workshops on these topics, was invited as a speaker to world-leading international conferences and universities, such as Future of Money - Payments Drift Forum (IE Business School - Madrid), Global Graphene Development Conference (Shanghai), Vienna Cryptoeconomics, etc. A thinktank member of the Belarusian Blockchain Association and Blockchain for Science (Germany).

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