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Editorial Snapshot: Disruption comes to scientific publishing

- G.A., Senior Editor

A key phrase in the modern business world is “disruptive innovation”. For example, the introduction and spread of digital photography devastated producers of camera film and eventually resulted in the bankruptcy of the once-powerful Eastman Kodak Company. In every industry, it seems that existing companies are actively seeking ways to protect themselves from the threats posed by innovative startups while new companies seek to leverage technology to steal market share from the largest players.

While academic research itself does not function as a business, the world of academic publishing is not only a fiercely competitive business environment, it also faces the possibility of disruptive innovation. While some disruption has occurred due to the growth of online journals and the open access movement, one group of founders is aiming to introduce a new publishing model that incorporates blockchain and a new cryptocurrency.

The motivation and plans of the founders of Orvium are outlined in a whitepaper published on their website. The list of problems in academic publishing (speed, cost, peer review, etc.) described in the whitepaper are familiar to anyone with experience in academic publishing. However, the references to “tokens”, “decentralization”, and “authentication” offer a unique perspective.

The size of the academic publishing market (which is estimated to exceed $23 billion per year for the scientific, technical, and medical literature alone) makes it a ripe target for disruption. However, only time will tell whether existing companies are able to protect their market share or innovative startups like Orvium can tip the scales to their advantage.

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