IBM Says Blockchain Can Power ‘Open Scientific Research’ in New Patent Filing

Zack Seward
Nov 12, 2018 at 05:00 UTC
Updated Nov 12, 2018 at 13:41 UTC
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A patent application published Thursday claims the process of conducting scientific research can benefit from the blockchain.

Led by a team at IBM’s Watson Research Center, the patent application presents a vision for dynamic collaboration – one where researchers can track their work across institutional borders. It’s another non-financial application of the distributed-ledger technology, which IBM has championed in recent months.

This latest patent can be thought of as an elaborate software changelog, but for science. Or, as the filing puts it, a system that provides “a tamper resistant log of scientific research.”

From the filing:

“The blockchain system can form a blockchain representing a research project, wherein the blockchain comprises a first block of research data and a second block of analysis data representing a log of an analysis performed on the research data. Summary blocks and correction blocks can also be added to the blockchain representing the post analysis of the research results.”

The application – titled “Blockchain for Open Scientific Research” – was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December 2017. IBM researchers Jae-wook Ahn, Maria Chang, Patrick Watson and Ravindranath Kokku are listed as inventors.

According to the patent, “currently, there are limited platforms that allow for sharing information about scientific research and showing transparent data collection and analysis steps. Platforms that do exist, lack the requisite controls and mechanisms to allow for trustworthy data, as there are few options for ensuring that data will be resistant to modification.”

IBM isn’t the only group working to apply distributed ledger technology to the scientific realm. A Berlin-based think tank, Blockchain for Science, held its first international conference earlier this week.

The blockchain-flavored patent is one of many for Big Blue. According to data published in September, IBM was behind only Chinese internet giant Alibaba in the number of blockchain-related patent filings.

IBM image via Shutterstock