The MIT Digital Currency Initiative (DCI) has launched Cryptoeconomic Systems (CES), a multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal and conference series focused on blockchain technology. Cryptoeconomic Systems Volume 1, Issue 1 is now available.
One of the major goals of Cryptoeconomic Systems is to bring cohesion to the research community. Currently, there are few blockchain-first publications, and even fewer that utilize peer review. The result is a fragmented body of research with papers scattered across disciplines, journals—even mediums of publication. “Despite the incredible work being done, blockchain doesn’t have the research infrastructure of other fields,” says Reuben Youngblom, managing editor of Cryptoeconomic Systems and Fellow at Stanford Law School, where he focuses on blockchain law and policy. “A lack of infrastructure is less problematic when articles are few and far between, and are primarily driven by another discipline. But more and more, blockchain is becoming a main research focus. We used to see papers that dealt with blockchain but were better classified under other fields. Lately, we’ve started seeing manuscripts that can only be classified as blockchain papers, despite leaning on economics, law, or a myriad of other disciplines. These works deserve a dedicated publication.”
By collecting blockchain scholarship under one roof, CES hopes to catalyze new and innovative research, expanding the scope of how blockchain fits into the world. Over the next few years, the aim is to seed the field through exploration and experimentation. “We’re particularly excited when we get papers from unexpected places,” says Youngblom. “Many of the intersections the world takes for granted were largely unintuitive until relatively recently. Design and technology, athletics and math—we see deductive reasoning as core to science, but even those two were only inextricably coupled within the past few centuries. What happens when we pair blockchain with, say, poetry? I have no idea, but I’m excited to find out.”
Quality over Quantity
Underpinning everything is a singular emphasis on quality. Andrew Miller, a co-editor-in-chief and an assistant professor of computer science at UIUC (as well as IC3 Associate Director), notes that rigor has largely been missing from blockchain research. To that end, a core focus of CES will be to bring new levels of critical examination to the field. Miller hopes that a more rigorous approach can transform the blockchain space, elevating revolutionary research and reducing the amount of misinformation spread through white papers. In pursuit of quality, CES is intentionally moving forward without article quotas, preferring instead to maintain the flexibility to accept only the best research each cycle, whether that’s one paper or hundreds.
CES is also uniquely positioned to surface the best research available by sidestepping a common problem blockchain scholars face: a lack of domain expertise during the peer-review process. “An article that approaches cryptocurrencies through, for instance, a financial lens may be a groundbreaking blockchain paper, but contribute little, strictly in terms of innovative material, to the field of finance. If an author’s only publication options are finance journals, their manuscript will likely be rejected in peer review,” Youngblom says. “By building review groups that have domain expertise in blockchain and other disciplines, we can identify and publish these deserving papers.”
Though located within the DCI, both the journal and conference series embrace a mission that puts the community—rather than any single organization—at the forefront. “We hope that Cryptoeconomic Systems will eventually become geographically boundless,” says Neha Narula, director of the MIT DCI and co-editor-in-chief. “Our plan is to support CES through the DCI, but really intertwine ourselves with the community by hosting events at other schools, and with other organizations, around the world.” Fostering collaborations with academic institutions, industry, and independent researchers is a key component of the long-term vision, and very much in alignment with the open-source ethos of blockchain. Further, in the same spirit, CES will be published under a diamond open access policy by the MIT Press, with all content freely available on the PubPub platform. In addition to hosting external events, Cryptoeconomic Systems seeks to expand its relationships with organizations both within and external to the blockchain world through educational efforts, sponsorship opportunities, and other collaborations.
The commitment to openness extends even to publication mechanics. In an effort to remain as objective as possible, CES has adopted a double-blind peer-review process, allowing each manuscript to speak for itself. “There’s no advantage to name recognition, and possibly more importantly, no disadvantage to being relatively unknown,” says Youngblom. “If your work is strong enough, we’ll publish it. When I think about the most brilliant blockchain minds I know, they range from tenured faculty at elite institutions to lone-wolf thinkers who would have much more of an uphill battle gaining traction with their ideas.” The most recent Call for Papers is currently live, and will remain open until May 25, 2021. All papers dealing with blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or decentralized technologies in some capacity are welcome. Additional details and submission guidelines can be found on the CES website.
Cryptoeconomic Systems Volume 1, Issue 1 features work from experts in computer science, economics, and philosophy, representing both academia and industry. A second issue is forthcoming later this spring. For those interested in learning more about past research that has been presented at CES Conferences in 2019 and 2020, archived talks are available on the CES website. Cryptoeconomic Systems is available on Twitter, runs an open Discord server, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.