Nav: Home

Illinois professor to lead AAAS session on 'Blockchain and the Scientific Method'

February 07, 2019

Lav Varshney, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will lead a session on 'Blockchain and the Scientific Method' as a part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington D.C. The press briefing associated with Varshney's session at the Marriott Wardman Park, 2660 Woodley Road, Washington will be from 10-11:30 am ET on Friday, February 15. Those unable to attend in person can register to participate remotely at

The practice of researchers using the scientific method -- developing questions, formulating hypotheses, developing testable predictions, collecting data, accepting or rejecting those predictions based on the data, publishing the results in peer-reviewed journals, and having others reproduce the results -- has been a standard practice for some time. However, in today's environment, there are anxieties over issues related to hypothesizing after the results are known, lack of reproducibility and replication, overstressed peer review, paywalls preventing access to results, and an overall misalignment of incentives for scientists, among others.

The session raises the question of whether blockchain can help resolve the crisis. The technology underpinning cryptocurrencies has found recent usage in domains as diverse as shipping, political elections, food safety, and health record management. The basic unit of a transaction, which could be a hypothesis, a prediction, a dataset, a data analysis script, or a manuscript, is posted onto a decentralized ledger in an immutable way with a time stamp. Smart contracts can then act upon these transactions in an irreversible way. In this symposium, speakers will discuss how the ills of science may be ameliorated by pre-registering hypotheses and posting data, analyses, and results on a public Blockchain. Topics include the way that a directed acyclic graph of scientific transactions underpins discoveries and how their replications can spread credit.
Varshney leads the Information and Intelligence Group at Illinois. The group is focused on augmenting individual and collective intelligence by understanding computation in various forms - social computing, nanoscale information processing, neural computation, blockchain, and computational creativity. His research team focuses on science and engineering of informational systems involving human and machines. He received his PhD from MIT in 2010 and was a researcher at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center for three years before joining the Illinois faculty in 2014.

The speakers include James A. Evans from the University of Chicago, Krishna Ratakonda from IBM, and Kewku Opoku-Agyemang from the University of California, Berkeley.

University of Illinois College of Engineering

Related Lead Articles:

Poor diet can lead to blindness
An extreme case of 'fussy' or 'picky' eating caused a young patient's blindness, according to a new case report published today [2 Sep 2019] in Annals of Internal Medicine.
What's more powerful, word-of-mouth or following someone else's lead?
Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, UCLA and the University of Texas published new research in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science, that reveals the power of word-of-mouth in social learning, even when compared to the power of following the example of someone we trust or admire.
UTI discovery may lead to new treatments
Sufferers of recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) could expect more effective treatments thanks to University of Queensland-led research.
Increasing frailty may lead to death
A new study published in Age and Ageing indicates that frail patients in any age group are more likely to die than those who are not frail.
Discovery could lead to munitions that go further, much faster
Researchers from the U.S. Army and top universities discovered a new way to get more energy out of energetic materials containing aluminum, common in battlefield systems, by igniting aluminum micron powders coated with graphene oxide.
Shorter sleep can lead to dehydration
Adults who sleep just six hours per night -- as opposed to eight -- may have a higher chance of being dehydrated, according to a study by Penn State.
For the brokenhearted, grief can lead to death
Grief can cause inflammation that can kill, according to new research from Rice University.
Lead or follow: What sets leaders apart?
Leaders are more willing to take responsibility for making decisions that affect the welfare of others.
Taking the lead toward witchweed control
A compound that binds to and inhibits a crucial receptor protein offers a new route for controlling a parasitic plant.
How looking at the big picture can lead to better decisions
New research suggests how distancing yourself from a decision may help you make the choice that produces the most benefit for you and others affected.
More Lead News and Lead Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#541 Wayfinding
These days when we want to know where we are or how to get where we want to go, most of us will pull out a smart phone with a built-in GPS and map app. Some of us old timers might still use an old school paper map from time to time. But we didn't always used to lean so heavily on maps and technology, and in some remote places of the world some people still navigate and wayfind their way without the aid of these tools... and in some cases do better without them. This week, host Rachelle Saunders...
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at