Aletheia: publish research for free, access research for free
Aletheia is a decentralised and distributed database for publishing scientific research and datasets. The database itself is managed as a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO) run by users. Aletheia was inspired by the documentary covering Aaron Swartz’s struggle with paywalls in academic publishing, The Internet’s Own Boy. Academic paywalls are discriminatory to those who cannot pay for research and serve no purpose past making money for publishers as research is usually covered through funding from governments and other bodies. Couple this with the fact that the companies managing paywalls don’t add any significant value to the publishing process that couldn’t be added by other parties, and you have a clear use case for technology to step into the publishing process to build a better system.
Aletheia proposes a system that can store papers and datasets in a secure and resilient manner, free for all to access. While traditional publishers only allow access to a highly exclusive and privileged group through a system of regressive barriers, Aletheia makes access universal. Rather than a website that has a single point of failure, the site itself or the server that hosts the site, Aletheia is a client that a user can download and install to streamline the publishing process. Leveraging two key pieces of technology, IPFS and blockchain, the Aletheia client sets aside a portion of memory on your machine and connects you to all the other portions that collectively form the wider database. You can search the entire database and download returned files for free, and you can upload to the database for free as well. To ensure that the database is used for its intended purpose, storing academic papers and not other means, users can vote on documents submitted for storage and documents will only appear in search results once they reach a percentage of positive votes based on the number of active users. This process is also used to handle peer review with users opting in to be peer reviewers and reviewing papers that are pending submission to the database post peer review. They perform the peer review as per normal, the client handles the transmission of peer review notes, and once the paper achieves a set number of peer reviews it goes to a community vote for submission to the database. Hashes of submitted papers are stored on a blockchain to prevent documents being tampered with and handle version control, and other information can be stored on the blockchain like user contributions to the community through submitting papers, peer review, voting, and by other means. This track record forms a reputation score so a user can quantify their contributions to science. Aletheia is open source, the source code being released under a GNU Lesser General Public License v3.0, meaning the platform and its contents are locked open. Aletheia cannot be bought out neither can its contents be placed behind a paywall.
In short, Aletheia is a resilient and open publishing platform that ensures everyone with an internet connection has access to research, providing an alternative to paywalled journals and fee charging open access journals.