New ways of organising? An exploration into how decentralized autonomous organizations can help Ocean Sustainability Science
Ocean Data Factory Sweden webinar, 25 May, 2022, 1 pm – 2.30 pm
- Linwood Pendleton, Ocean Knowledge Action Network and Moonjelly Academy
- Anna-Marie Swan, Block Chain for Good Alliance
The script of the workshop is prepared by Linwood Pendleton and Anna-Marie Swan.
Hi, Thanks for joining us today.
First, I want to let you know that we are recording this webinar because we want to write up what we learn today. So, please turn-off your camera if you don’t want to be seen and if you do not want to be part of this recorded webinar, please log-off now. We will not share this recording.
Second, I want to thank the Ocean Data Factory for inviting us today to try out this interactive session.
What we want to do in this next 90 mins is for all of us to explore together how blockchain technology might offer us new ways to coordinate and cooperate. We’ll be touching on the ways that blockchain changes how we store and share data, and how it’s given birth to new organisational processes, including a new type of organisation called a DAO. Then we’ll be diving into smaller groups to think about whether this new technology might elevate how we work together as scientists. Already, DAOs are being used to fund medical research and at least one marine science Ph.D. has been funded through the Seastarter DAO.
GOALS and Rules of Conduct
The goal of this interactive session today is to try to come up with a better understanding of the pros and cons of decentralized autonomous organizations for science. There will be a lot of opportunity for you to weigh in on this and we will collect your thoughts and ideas and write this up as a “light paper” that we will share broadly. There will be no direct attribution for specific comments, but we would be happy to include you by name in our write-up if you are interested. If you would like to be directly acknowledged, we’ll gather your emails at the end of the session.
We want to start by acknowledging that some of the aspects of blockchain are emotional and complex. We don’t really have time to cover all aspects of blockchain, crypto and the like and today we really want to focus on a couple of very specific applications of blockchain technology to governing scientific resources and decisions.
That doesn’t mean we think these other topics are unimportant and we know many of you might have something you want to say regarding concerns about crypto currencies or the potential energy use of blockchain. So, we have created a space within the Mural Board, called the Parking Lot, for you to jot down your general concerns. We hope to have future sessions dedicated to these other topics. Anna-Marie will share the link to the board in the Zoom chat now and we’ll give you a couple of minutes to log in and have a quick look around.
In this session, we hope to make some progress towards better understanding the pros and cons of blockchain for science finance, governing databases, and some other very specific applications of blockchain. We are here to stimulate a conversation. We have people with a variety of levels and kinds of experiences with science, block chain and DAOs. So, by breaking up into smaller groups, we hope you can support each other to learn and dive deep into these topics.
We ask everyone to approach the sessions with curiosity and courtesy – it’s my hope that we leave today with many new questions and ideas.
Anyone that acts rudely or tries to distract from an open and scholarly discussion will be removed from the webinar – but hopefully that won’t happen. Anna-Marie …
First, we want to introduce ourselves and then we’ll send you into breakout rooms in pairs so you can have a check-in and meet each other. A check-in is something we often do in DAO meetings so that we can build intimacy.
LP introduces himself
- Ocean KAN International Project Office, hosted by CNRS and supported by Consortium
- Moonjelly Academy
- Ocean KAN was created to explore new ways of bringing people and networks together to support the co-design of ocean science for sustainable development
- We created Moonjelly Academy with Moonjelly.io to do what we are doing today – think critically about new digital approaches to conservation and science and to share that thinking with the world.
AM introduces herself.
- BlockchainForGood Alliance
Now, in that spirit of openness, let’s introduce you to each other.
We’ll send you into breakout rooms in pairs and you’ll have 5 minutes to meet each other. The invitation for this check-in round is to see if you can find something in common in that time.
***** (5 mins breakout)
Welcome back. We hope you enjoyed your check-in. (Go here for introductory materials about blockchain and web3.)
Let me just step back and remind you what we are talking about today. For quite some time many of us have been talking about, and I’ve been writing about, ways that we could use blockchain technology to give researchers ownership to data and intellectual property.
The blockchain tech I’m talking about is simply a bit of encrypted computer code that records transactions. What makes blockchain so special is that these transactions are recorded not just on one computer, but many computers, worldwide, at the same time. That means these blockchain records are nearly impossible to change unilaterally and they can be open for all to see.
Often, the blockchain record is associated with something called a token which is a digital representation of what the blockchain applies to. These tokens can act like currencies, they can be deeds of ownership – like NFTs, and they can be used to convey voting rights in different types of decision processes. It is this latter use that we want to focus on today.
Blockchain approaches are now being used to automate decision-making and governance for commonly managed resources. Consensys estimates that nearly 1 million people belong to communities that use blockchain-enabled governance.
Today we want to explore what that might look like for scientific resources. Specifically, we want to get some initial impressions about two potential applications to science:
- what this could look like as a way of managing and distributing science funds, and
- how might DISTRIBUTED AUTONOMOUS ORGANIZATIONS OR DAOS be used to govern shared databases.
The idea here is to just get us all thinking about the potential benefits and risks of using these new technologies for science.
To start, we want to get a little more background about these decentralized autonomous organizations. We are going to hear from Anna-Marie who has been working in web3 and DAOs for over a year now. Anna-Marie, …
I’m really pleased to be here today so I can share with you some of the reasons why I believe that blockchain technology enables funding to be more transparent and community-led and -owned. I’ll do this by utilising Giveth, a DAO that’s innovating philanthropic giving, as a case study.
To start with, you might be wondering what a DAO is. Let’s break it down.
A DAO is a decentralised autonomous organisation that utilises blockchain technology to ensure that when certain decisions are made by the community, the decision is enacted onchain (i.e. on the blockchain). This is due to an incredible piece of innovation called a Smart Contract. Smart Contracts are programs stored on a blockchain that run when predetermined conditions are met. This is the autonomy part of the term DAO and it’s why blockchain technology, and DAOs, are sometimes called trustless, since the program actions will take place automatically.
The decentralised part of the term DAO refers to the fact that though in reality DAOs usually operate somewhere on the line between centralised and decentralised, with some decisions being made by a central team and some decisions being made by community members, most DAOs intend to end up at a place where the community has full ownership of financial and governance decision-making. To accomplish this distribution of decision-making, a DAO will usually create a token. This token is then usually given to community members and sold on the crypto markets. This token can then be used to ‘vote’ by the token holders for proposals about governance and DAO treasury decisions.
I keep using the terms ‘usually’ and ‘most’ when discussing DAOs because I’m simplifying quite complex systems and there’s really no one way to ‘DAO’ it. There’s a whole field of social engineering about token economics and DAOs dedicated to exploring and experimenting with tokenomics. Many of these explorations include how governance power can be shared in a way that doesn’t recreate current systems, such as giving those with the most money the greatest voting power.
Let’s bring all of this into the context of Giveth and some of the ways that DAOs and blockchain technology is innovating philanthropy.
Giveth is a philanthropy platform that enables crypto donations to go directly to the registered projects. From large nonprofits right through to a single person collecting trash from their local countryside, a project like Giveth enables social and environmental impact funding to occur directly between the donor and the receiver.
100% of donations go directly into the project’s wallet. Giveth doesn’t take any fees and there are no middlemen. A person in South Africa that cares about climate health can directly fund someone in Italy that’s helping regenerate their land.
It’s also very simple to become a donor or to become a verified project.
To become a verified project, all you need is a crypto wallet and an understanding of what to do with the crypto you receive. To become a donor, you simply connect your crypto wallet and send the funds. The only fees are those that the blockchain itself might charge you.
If we click into one of Giveth’s verified projects, we can not only read all about the projects’ work and see updates, but if we then click here next to the donation amount we can view every single donation to that project. What we’re looking at here are the actual transactions on the blockchain. We can see the amount that was donated, which wallet address it came from, and when it was sent. And we know that it’s correct information because we can see the thousands of times this transaction was verified by nodes all around the world.
This multiple, decentralised verification is one of the key reasons that blockchain technology is so exciting! Instead of looking to central institutions like banks or governments to oversee transactions, by having thousands of nodes all around the globe checking the same information, we can take full control of our information.
There’s much more that we can learn from looking at these transaction records, but these three aspects alone gives anyone with the knowledge about how to find this information a completely new level of transparency and traceability that we often don’t have today.
It’s not only the project information that is transparent. Giveth’s wallets are also on chain, which means we can see every financial transaction that occurs for Giveth.
Imagine if every donation that was given to your project was transparent and traceable data that was visible to anyone that wanted to look at it. And imagine if every financial transaction that your project made was also transparent and traceable to anyone that wanted to look at it. And imagine if every financial transaction went straight from your donors directly to your wallet, without any intermediaries. Wouldn’t that be impactful?
So there you have it! This is just a very quick intro into some of the ways that DAOs and web3-based projects are utilising blockchain technology and decentralisation to change how philanthropy works and are exploring ways to make it more community-led and -owned. The question we’re going to explore for the rest of the session today is: Could this work for science funding too?
Thanks Anna-Marie. I know that was a pretty intense summary of the world of decentralized funding through DAOs. So, let’s take some time to break out to see if people have general questions about how these DAOs work. We are going to split into two groups and Anna-Marie and I will each join one of the groups so that we can try to answer your questions. After about 15 minutes of discussion, we will come back together and then have a short exercise. After that, I will explain how we are going to work together to think about how these DAOs might work for science funding and databases.
Okay, Anna-Marie will launch the breakout groups.
30:00 – 45:00 Breakouts Q&A with Facilitators
Thanks for participating in those breakouts.
So, now that you have thought through some of the basics about DAOs, let’s think a little more deeply about specific uses for DAOs in science and especially whether this use of decentralized governance could be applied in science.
Based on Anna-Marie’s presentation, I hope you already see how we might use DAO approaches to propose and fund scientific research.
Another potential application to think about is whether DAOs could be used to govern shared databases of things like ocean data or earth observation data.
To get started, I want to do a little poll to see how many of you have contributed data to one of the following databases.
Yixin, could you launch the first poll?
LP POLL: Have you contributed data to:
- Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS)
- IODE (International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange
- ESRI’s Living Atlas of the World
- GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility)
- EMODNET (European Marine Observation and Data Network)
Okay. And if you have contributed to one of the databases above, please answer this second poll – Yixin? …
LP Poll: How much SAY do you have in how these databases are managed?
- None at all
- A little, but not enough
- A lot, I feel full represented
- I don’t really feel like I need to have a say
Of course, some of these databases are governed by country-level representatives. GBIF has representatives from countries that contribute financially to support the database.
The question we want you to consider is whether individual data providers should have a say in governance?
A DAO could potentially be used to govern similar databases or at least new databases. Governance tokens could be earned based on any previously agreed upon criteria – how much data are uploaded, how frequently data are downloaded, financial contribution, time spent verifying data, or based on diversity, equity, inclusion and justice criteria, etc.
Could this work? Could more direct say in governance create incentives to share data?
To think about how DAOs might be used for science funding, governing databases, and other uses, we are going to break out into a handful of small groups to talk more about DAOs and science.
BREAKOUT GROUPS – self organized:
In your breakouts, we will send you to a Mural Board where you will see each of the topics we just discussed. Each breakout group will have a row where you can put your group’s top 4 promises and concerns for each topic.
- DAOs and Science Funding:
- DAOS and Database Governance
- DAOS and other types of science governance (you choose by writing your topic in the first sticky note for your group)
You will have 20 minutes.
Please nominate ONE person to keep time and ONE person who can be prepared to summarize (in 2 minutes) the highlights of what your group discussed. PLEASE NOTE THE NUMBER OF YOUR BREAKOUT GROUP – you will want to use the column that matches your breakout group # and later I also will ask you to report out by break out group.
We suggest that you jot down ideas either in the CHAT or you could have someone open a Google doc. Do this for about 10 minutes and then spend the second 10 minutes picking the 4 top or most agreed upon promises and concerns for your group and discussing what you’ve written. Then we will come back to discuss.
Okay, let’s go.
65:00-75:00 Short summary 2 minute summary by each breakout group (AM to organise the threads)
Okay, let’s go around and hear what you have to say.
We will start with Break Out Group #1, 2, and #3.
75:00-85:00 Open Discussion and Summary
Trust, transparency, democratization, flexibility, and the potential to reduce bias and increase equity were common themes in the breakouts. Potential risks that were identified including security and energy costs. At least one participant noted the risks that DAOs will not work well for science funding if voting participation rates are not high or representative. The findings from the breakout sessions are summarized below.
85:00-90:00 Quick wrap-up (LP):
Thanks so much for your time and input today. We will leave the Mural Board open until close of business on Monday to give you some time to go back and add more comments. Then, Anna-Marie and I will write up a summary of our findings that we will share via Linkedin and Medium. If you want to be notified by email, please make sure you put your email in the chat. Also, if you want to be acknowledged in the write-up, please let us know in the chat also.
Now, to finish, we would like each of you to think of one sentence to reflect on what we did today. Put this in the chat, but don’t hit enter until I say.
Okay, 1 minute to get your thoughts together.
We will leave that up for a minute and then close the webinar.