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by Giulio Prisco, Oct 11, 2017

The Future of STEM Research Could Lie on the Blockchain


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In academic and scientific research, current authorship and crediting systems are widely considered insufficient and even nonsensical. 

“We have the tools and volition to broadly collaborate and share information, but the formation in collaboration is hindered because the credit system does not adequately represent actual contributions,” wrote Terry McGlynn, Professor of Biology at California State University, Dominguez Hills.

Authorship is not the only issue with centralized collaboration. Solving scientific problems in silos can waste time and create redundancy. By contrast, connecting and communicating within a global community could solve these same problems in an immensely more beneficial way. Matryx, a software platform which uses both virtual reality and blockchain technology, is attempting to decentralize scientific collaboration.

Incentivized to Collaborate

Matryx is a platform offering a blockchain-based bounty system that provides incentives for collaborative research and scientific problem solving. Anyone can post bounties to Matryx, and the best contributions are rewarded with MTX tokens, the platform’s native currency.

"Our goal is to make Matryx the de facto standard for decentralized collaboration, proving that a global community of collaborators will yield innovation faster than work attempted in siloed teams," said Matryx founder and CEO Steve McCloskey in a press release. "Matryx aims to create an environment that encourages healthy competition and the open exchange of ideas for critical fields like math, science, technology and engineering. By leveraging blockchain-based bounties, we're also able to reward contributors openly, encourage future collaboration and evolve the platform as user needs demand."

The Matryx team also develops virtual reality (VR) software for scientific research and development. McCloskey, who graduated from University of California, San Diego’s Department of NanoEngineering, previously started Nanome Inc. to create better tools for nanoengineering design via VR. Last year Nanome launched two VR products: VR mathematics tool kit Calcflow, and Nano-one, a VR interface for nanoscale design and simulation, described as the first VR molecular modeling tool. Matryx aims to leverage these VR tools to foster and incentivize collaborative problem-solving in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“I’m enthused to bring together VR and blockchain technology to create Matryx, the world’s first decentralized platform for scientific collaboration,” said McCloskey. “The Matryx platform will accommodate all fields of science and mathematics including nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and automation. ... An open access, scientifically grounded society isn’t just ideal, it’s inevitable.”

A Library of digital assets and a Marketplace

While Matryx bounties will initially focus on 3-D modeling, the project’s developers’ ultimate ambition is to incentivize molecular design. “We envision crowdsourced precision medicine creating new drugs to fight the world’s toughest diseases and extend human life,” revealed McCloskey. “Calcflow for Oculus, Vive and GearVR will provide a premium viewing and interactive experience, while the web interface will democratize access to Matryx for all “citizen scientists.” Next, we’ll integrate Nano-one with Matryx so users can contribute chemical designs and crowdsource drug development.”

Besides the bounty system, the Matryx platform features a library of digital assets and a marketplace. Users will collaborate to solve bounties, share results and earn rewards. All relevant contributions will be rewarded and added to the Matryx platform for new contributors to remix and improve upon, eventually triggering a cascade of cooperative iterations, which of course will receive their own rewards. According to the Matryx team, this will create an ecosystem for collaborative research and innovation.

By default, all relevant contributors will share a bounty reward equally, but a planned update will permit more flexibility in choosing how to split a bounty among contributors. “Matryx provides a structure that reduces the friction of rewarding collaborators,” notes the Matryx white paper.

“Rather than attributing all the credit to one person or one group who proposes a solution that is built on other people’s work, Matryx tracks the provenance of assets, enables collaboration, and divides rewards amongst all participants. In this way Matryx can reward each unit of progress towards the goal. Solitary research and siloed collaboration are discouraged, while open collaboration in pursuit of a shared reward is incentivized.”

A Medium post gives a few examples — ranging from simple to complex ― for how users might utilize Matryx. One example describes a bounty for a parameterized design for a specific component of a SpaceX rocket. Another example, which correlates with the Matryx team’s focus on molecular engineering and crowdsourced drug development, describes a bounty for a custom molecular drug for a specific binding site. In this example, the drug is designed with Nanome’s VR tools, simulated, iteratively revised and synthesized by a robotic assembly factory at a pharma company. All participants are rewarded with MTX, and eventually the new drug is placed on the Matryx marketplace and sold to a pharma company for FDA testing and mass distribution.

Token Sale

On September 5, the Matryx team launched a token sale to acquire crowdfunding for research and development (R&D) and community buildup. The ERC-20 MTX token will permit users to track all contributions and leverage smart contracts for Matryx operations. The token sale is ongoing.

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