The Jensen Lab at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has announced a new initiative that uses blockchain technology to allow cellular biologists to share their research with other academic institutions as well as the general public.
The initiative, which was unveiled on Tuesday, will see the Caltech release thousands of electron tomography datasets acquired in the more than 15 years since the Jensen Lab began pioneering high-resolution electron microscopy images of cells in 2002.
Due to the complexity and expenses associated with this academic frontier, few academic institutions are able to create these three-dimensional datasets themselves.
However, the datasets are still extremely valuable to outside researchers, which is why the Jensen Lab decided to create the world’s first blockchain-based electron tomography database (ETDB), which will allow universities with access to this technology to easily publish their tomograms and universities that do not with the ability to use the datasets to build their own applications.
Caltech’s ETDB was built using the Open Index Protocol (OIP) on the Proof-of-Work-secured (PoW) FLO blockchain — which stores the database’s metadata index — and tomograms are stored in the IPFS network.
“The permissionless design and proof-of-work security of Open Index Protocol on the FLO blockchain are key to the system’s ability to ensure open & transparent information access,” added Bitcoin Center NYC founder Nick Spanos. “It’s great to see the Jensen Lab at Caltech using this system to make their research data available to the public.”
The Jensen Lab chose a blockchain solution for its ETDB for several reasons. Since the data will be distributed, Caltech will not be responsible for storing datasets that other institutions contribute to the project. Moreover, the data will remain available to the public even if funding issues force the Jensen Lab to allocate its resources elsewhere in the future.
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