Monday, May 14, 2018

Blockchain for Peer Review

An initiative has started in the UK called Blockchain for Peer Review. It claims:
The project will develop a protocol where information about peer review activities (submitted by publishers) are stored on a blockchain. This will allow the review process to be independently validated, and data to be fed to relevant vehicles to ensure recognition and validation for reviewers.  By sharing peer review information, while adhering to laws on privacy, data protection and confidentiality, we will foster innovation and increase interoperability.
Everything about this makes sense and could be implemented with a database run by a trusted party, as for example CrossRef does for DOI resolution. Implementing it with a blockchain is effectively impossible. Follow me below the fold for the explanation.

The reason is that many reviewers are EU citizens, and will continue to be subject to the GDPR even after a hard Brexit. If the blockchain is to "ensure recognition and validation for reviewers" it will contain personal information about these reviewers. David Meyer writes in Blockchain is on a collision course with EU privacy law:
The bloc’s General Data Protection law, which will come into effect in a few months’ time, says people must be able to demand that their personal data is rectified or deleted under many circumstances.
And with sanctions for flouting the GDPR including fines of up to €20 million or 4 percent of global revenues, many businesses may find the ultra-buzzy blockchain trend a lot less palatable than they first thought.
Altering data “just doesn’t work on a blockchain,” said John Mathews, the chief finance officer for Bitnation a project that aims to provide blockchain-based identity and governance services, as well as document storage.
The whole point of a blockchain is to implement immutability, so it cannot be used as the infrastructure for GDPR-compliant systems. Step 4 in Phase 1 of the Blockchain for Peer Review is:
  1. Investigate legal aspects (e.g. GDPR)
I think this step instead needs to be:
  1. Rewrite the GDPR to allow immutability.
The EU will be happy to do this because blockchain!
“From a blockchain point of view, the GDPR is already out of date,” Mathews said. “Regulation plays catch-up with technology. The GDPR was written on the assumption that you have centralized services controlling access rights to the user’s data, which is the opposite of what a permissionless blockchain does.”


Dragan Espenschied said...

These blockchain articles are getting better every time 😂

David. said...

Wired lists 187 Things the Blockchain Is Supposed to Fix but they don't include peer review.

David. said...

Kate Rooney writes SEC chief says agency won’t change securities laws to cater to cryptocurrencies.

David. said...

"When people ask about GDPR and PII, I warn them: don’t put Personally Identifying Information (PII) into an append-only ledger, under any circumstances.

“Immutable” and “GDPR” don’t belong in the same system.

You will have to remove Personally Identifying Information at some point — putting it into an append-only ledger is only making a rod for your own back. Use a conventional database."

Wise words from David Gerard.

David. said...

The awesome Ben Goldacre responds to the FT's Blockchain offers cure for patients’ fragmented medical records:

"These fashion-addled morons want to put medical records on the blockchain. Confidential data... in a public ledger. Their plan assumes the encryption will resist brute force attacks for fifty years. Which it will not. Bollockchain more like."

David. said...

"Chainalysis estimates that longer-term holders sold at least $30 billion worth of bitcoin to new speculators over the December to April period, with half of this movement taking place in December alone.

“This was an exceptional transfer of wealth,” says Philip Gradwell, Chainalysis’ chief economist, who dubs the past six months as bitcoin’s “liquidity event”.

Gradwell argues that this sudden injection of liquidity – the amount of bitcoin available for trading rose by close to 60 per cent over that period – has been a “fundamental driver” behind the recent price decline. At the same time, bitcoin trading volumes have now fallen in tandem with the prices, from close to $4 billion daily in December to $1 billion today." from Bitcoin: Who really owns it, the whales or small fry? by Hannah Murphy. As David Gerard pointed out, cryptocurrencies are mechanisms for transferring wealth from later to earlier adopters.

Murphy notes:

"Overall, some 1,600 bitcoin wallets – managed by both speculators and investors – contained at least 1,000 bitcoin each in April, according to Chainalysis, collectively holding nearly 5 million bitcoin, or close to a third of the available total.

Of those, just under 100 wallets owned by longer-term investors contained between 10,000 and 100,000 bitcoin – so between $75 million and $750 million at today’s prices."

Even the HODL-ing is centralized.

David. said...

And here's another "blockchain for science" effort about to launch an ICO.

David. said...

Despite accepting that blockchains actually deliver their advertised properties, Ian Mulvany reviews a wide range of potential use cases and concludes:

"My take on blockchain in STEM is broadly that there are no existing use cases that are a compelling fit for the tech, but that is not to say that there won’t be other new use cases in the future."