Clack is Joint Field Chief Editor for the research journal Frontiers in Blockchain. Recent publications from Frontiers in Blockchain are given below:


  • Blockchain feasibility assessment: A quantitative approach

    Blockchain feasibility assessment: A quantitative approach

    This article outlines the research and development of a blockchain assessment framework which enables the assessment of the technical suitability, high-level design, adoption approach, economic feasibility, and business value potential of a blockchain solution with a particular organization for a specific process. The framework is a comprehensive, high-level, and generic assessment approach that enables better decision-making regarding blockchain exploration. Blockchain is a novel technology with the potential to disrupt several industries through its possession of many desirable functional characteristics, including, but not limited to, immutability, transparency, decentralization, and secure. Cryptocurrencies and these desirable characteristics have created hype around blockchain, consequently leading to blockchain projects with minimal understanding of what the technology is capable of and beneficial for, resulting in excessively high failure rates. Attempts have been made by researchers to reduce these high failure rates by creating a better understanding of blockchain, as well as creating assessment approaches. However, these approaches tend to apply to specific narrow use cases, or the approach is not comprehensive and only considers one aspect of blockchain assessment. This emphasizes the need for a comprehensive and generic blockchain assessment approach to aid with better decision-making regarding blockchain within organizations. This article aims at addressing this need by creating a blockchain assessment framework to aids with deciding whether it is worthwhile investing more time, effort, and money into blockchain exploration. The context of the study is set in the introduction, this is then followed by a brief explanation of the blockchain technology. Thereafter, the blockchain assessment framework is presented, followed by a brief explanation of the demonstration and validation of the framework using a case study and expert analysis. The framework is most valuable during the initial stages of blockchain exploration and creates momentum for further blockchain exploration in an organization. The study concludes with the limitations and future research recommendations.

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  • Seller-buyer networks in NFT art are driven by preferential ties

    Seller-buyer networks in NFT art are driven by preferential ties

    Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) have recently surged to mainstream attention by allowing the exchange of digital assets via blockchains. NFTs have also been adopted by artists to sell digital art. One of the promises of NFTs is broadening participation to the art market, a traditionally closed and opaque system, to sustain a wider and more diverse set of artists and collectors. A key sign of this effect would be the disappearance or at least reduction in importance of seller-buyer preferential ties, whereby the success of an artist is strongly dependent on the patronage of a single collector. We investigate NFT art seller-buyer networks considering several galleries and a large set of nearly 40,000 sales for over 230 M USD in total volume. We find that NFT art is a highly concentrated market driven by few successful sellers and even fewer systematic buyers. High concentration is present in both the number of sales and, even more strongly, in their priced volume. Furthermore, we show that, while a broader-participation market was present in the early phase of NFT art adoption, preferential ties have dominated during market growth, peak and recent decline. We consistently find that the top buyer accounts on average for over 80% of buys for a given seller. Similar trends apply to buyers and their top seller. We conclude that NFT art constitutes, at the present, a highly concentrated market driven by preferential seller-buyer ties.

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  • Mitigating bureaucratic inefficiencies through blockchain technology in Africa

    Mitigating bureaucratic inefficiencies through blockchain technology in Africa

    With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) wave engulfing African governments, the need to do, and use something new has already infiltrated many public sector organizations. While modern technologies are being embraced in the private sector, African governments are emulating new technologies and other Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) to advance their economies while managing the risk that these sophisticated technologies can trigger. Blockchain technology is one of the emerging 4IR technology that is believed to have the capacity to mitigate bureaucratic inefficiencies, although scholars argue implementing such comes at a higher price. To understand how blockchain can help reduce inefficiencies in African bureaucracy, the researchers employed the systematic literature review analysis where documents from various databases such as Scopus, Web of Science, and Google Scholar were systematically sampled depending on how they offer meaningful data concerning blockchain implementation. The analyses of these secondary sources revealed multiple challenges and opportunities associated with blockchain technology in the African government. The challenges include poor project management, weak institutions that do not uphold accountability and transparency in data entry using blockchain, unavailability of blockchain infrastructure, risk-averse attitude, and absence of institutional readiness. By implementing enabling technology policies in government, the study revealed that blockchain could help improve taxation in African bureaucracies and mitigate data altering and errors while maximizing efficiency. Further merits in public healthcare and education can be realized by using blockchain technology. The conclusions drawn from this study have shown that for African bureaucracy to thrive using blockchain technology, there is a need to prepare public sector institutions to embrace blockchain technology. At the same time, investment in soft and technical skills remains fundamental to mitigate inefficiencies in public service provision. Institutional readiness is another deterrent to blockchain technology as public administration regard this technology as demanding since it may require change, and management where institutions and structures are reshuffled to respond to the demands of blockchain technology in the delivery of public goods.

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  • Reputation-based Decentralized Autonomous Organization for the non-profit sector: Leveraging blockchain to enhance good governance

    Reputation-based Decentralized Autonomous Organization for the non-profit sector: Leveraging blockchain to enhance good governance

    The Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), a group organized by governance rules programmed on a blockchain, has recently been attracting attention as a novel organizational form. The effectiveness of a DAO’s decentralized governance mechanism and transparency, as secured by its code, has generally been discussed in contrast with traditional stock companies. However, the potential of a DAO for non-profits, which provide goods and services that profit-seeking organizations do not offer, has been less discussed. This paper presents a proof-of-concept implementation to demonstrate the advantages of utilizing a DAO governance framework for non-profits. To this end, this study developed a DAO governance framework incorporating a reputation-based decision-making system, a peer evaluation system, and a transparent, real-time accounting system for the Ethereum blockchain. Most current decentralized governance systems rely heavily on token-based voting using governance tokens with stock-like features. However, there is a need for a voting mechanism beyond token-based voting for non-profits, which do not have owners. Therefore, the developed application applies an existing reputation-based voting mechanism and integrates additional features, such as a membership system with mutual evaluation and a reputation NFT to visualize contributions. Several exemplar demonstrations were conducted to evaluate its key functionalities. This application enabled discussions across the boundary between technology and society in terms of the key aspects of non-profits: i) transparency of finance and governance, ii) participatory governance by diverse stakeholders, and iii) equity and inclusiveness of the consensus mechanism. The results indicated that blockchain technology compensates for a non-profit’s vulnerabilities, and illustrated that the proposed reputation-based governance mechanisms are well-motivated. However, the results also revealed that blockchain-based governance involves as many potential risks and limitations as it brings benefits. Lastly, by providing several possible solutions to these constraints as well as recommendations for future research, this paper contributes to the sustainable development of non-profits as one of the foundations of democratic governance.

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  • Coffee producers’ perspectives of blockchain technology in the context of sustainable global value chains

    Coffee producers’ perspectives of blockchain technology in the context of sustainable global value chains

    Transparency and equitability are key for improved sustainability outcomes in global value chains. Blockchain technology has been touted as a tool for achieving these ends. However, due to the limited empirical evidence, claims on transparency and sustainability benefits are largely theoretical. We lack an understanding of the benefits and drawbacks for upstream actors within global value chains and how this affects technology adoption. Addressing this gap, we conduct an empirical study to identify the drivers and obstacles for coffee producers in Colombia in adopting blockchain. We base our research on an event-driven and permissioned blockchain model, specifically designed for this research. Applying the Participation Capacity Framework and conducting semi-structured interviews with coffee producers and key informants, we analyze adoption attitudes towards the blockchain application. We further identify opportunities and drawbacks from the producers’ perspective. We set these findings in the context of the Global Value Chain research, considering the existing power relations in the coffee value chain. The top-down nature of blockchain projects raises distributive concerns, as resource investments, implementation burden, and risks are significantly higher upstream, whereas downstream lead firms will benefit most. We identify data squeeze as an additional channel of sustainable supplier squeeze relevant in the case of blockchain initiatives. Data squeeze implies lead firms turning the data obtained through, likely unpaid, labour of blockchain participants into a monetizable assets and marketable value through branding and advertisement. Based on the findings, we identify potential design dimensions and implementation features that can contribute to materializing producer benefits, thus mitigating the risk of a sustainability-driven supplier squeeze.

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  • Can decentralized science help tackle the deterioration in working conditions in academia?

    Can decentralized science help tackle the deterioration in working conditions in academia?

    Academic staff’s working conditions have been deteriorating for years. In particular, the reduced availability of both research funding and permanent research positions has continuously led to insidious competition and intense stress among academics. Whereas governing bodies have made significant attempts to narrow pervasive social inequalities in the distribution of research funding within the scientific community, they have not truly taken into account the importance of the academics’ overall well-being in the development of more sustainable financing of academic researchers. This originates not only from the complexity to develop comprehensive models reflecting staff’s overall well-being in the academic environment, but also from the limited access to reliable and immutable data that transparently account for the staff’s direct experience. In this context, blockchain technology can push further the use of more transparent survey data collection and record-keeping that can help mitigate the systematic bias inherent to the centralized nature of traditional auditing. We discuss how research institutions and governing bodies can build on blockchain technology and the early momentum generated by the decentralized science (DeSci) movement to implement the future-proof research funding chain that values overall well-being across academia in a transparent and coordinated way.

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  • Advancing sustainability with blockchain-based incentives and institutions

    Advancing sustainability with blockchain-based incentives and institutions

    Despite significant efforts over many decades, humanity faces daunting challenges in the governance, management and sustainability of natural resources. Perhaps the most obvious is our global inability to collectively act and control or reduce greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. Another example, occurring at finer geographic scales, is the overuse of groundwater aquifers. Institutions—defined in Political Science and Economics as formal and informal rules that guide and incentivize socio-economic activities—are humanity’s general approach toward addressing these and other environmental challenges. Institutional arrangements typically specify whom they apply to, under what circumstances, and what penalty the breaking of the rule involves. Effective institutional design requires the ability to properly incentivize human behavior in the context of socio-economic systems, and establish systems to monitor behavior and sanction when rules are broken. From time to time, technological advances come along that complement institutional designs and improve our ability to incentivize and monitor behavior. We believe that the invention of Blockchain or Distributed Ledger technology—increasingly touted as the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution–could provide new ways to incentivize behavior of resource users, establish innovative monitoring capacity, and help to avoid corrupt governmental behavior. In this Perspective article, we summarize Proof-of-Stake Blockchain technology and provide two examples—deforestation and groundwater management—to describe how this new revolution could provide new solutions for the sustainable management of natural resources at local to global scales.

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  • Off-chain trading for micro grid systems

    Off-chain trading for micro grid systems

    As micro grids and blockchain gained the interest and attention of both academia and the industry, the interaction between the two technologies seems inevitable. However, there are challenges to overcome in order to actually realize the integration between micro grids and blockchains. In this article, we review the solutions proposed to enhance micro grids with blockchains. We discuss the scalability challenges and the opportunities derived from the off-chaining computing techniques. In this context, we draft a design to implement a micro grid-based peer-to-peer local energy market, powered by an off-chain computing protocol called DIVERSITY. DIVERSITY aims to shift the computational burden from a main blockchain to an intermediate layer of nodes, aggregating data and executing smart contracts off-chain. We simulate different data logging approaches, and it is found that DIVERSITY allows an actual saving on fees and power consumption derived from using a public blockchain platform, such as Ethereum, in order to assure a truly decentralized renewable energy distribution at a lower cost.

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  • Digging into primary financial market: The issues of primary financial market issuance and investigations from the perspective of blockchain

    Digging into primary financial market: The issues of primary financial market issuance and investigations from the perspective of blockchain

    With the characteristics of anonymity, trust, tamper-proof, etc., blockchain technology can effectively solve some problems faced by the financial market, such as trust issues and information asymmetry issues. To deeply understand the application scenarios of blockchain in the financial market, the issue of securities issuance and trading in the primary market is studied. The authors conducted an empirical study to investigate the main difficulties faced by primary market participants in their business practices and the potential challenges of the deepening adoption of blockchain technology in the primary market. The authors adopted a hybrid method by combing interviews (qualitative methods) and surveys (quantitative methods) to conduct this research in two stages. In the first stage, authors interview 15 major primary market participants with different backgrounds and expertise. In the second phase, authors conducted a verification survey of 54 primary market practitioners to confirm various insights from the interviews, including challenges and desired improvements. The interviews and survey results reveal several significant challenges facing blockchain applications in the primary market: complex due diligence, mismatching, and difficult monitoring. The research shows that primary market participants have a positive attitude towards the application of blockchain technology to the primary market and are ready to adopt blockchain technology to solve some of the current issues.

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  • Blocked chains of governance: Using blockchain technology for carbon offset markets?

    Blocked chains of governance: Using blockchain technology for carbon offset markets?

    Information and communication technology (ICT) plays a critical role in environmental governance; however, research into power in governance has not focused on the impact of ICT. In this study, we analyze the use of blockchain in a voluntary carbon offset market using the “Four Faces of Power” (compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive) conceptual framework to determine how ICT can change the power dynamics within a network of stakeholders. Proponents have proposed that blockchain technology can solve several issues that carbon marketplaces and offsets face, such as cybersecurity, traceability, and financial liquidity. Despite these proposals, there is little scholarship on existing cases using blockchain in carbon offsets. We found that the use of blockchain technology by the company Veridium changed the compulsory and institutional power dynamics within the network of stakeholders it was a member of. Veridium’s choice to use blockchain technology was likely the result of structural and productive power dynamics surrounding the technology at the time. The power dynamics changed because the use of blockchain for Veridium’s carbon offset market caused additional stakeholders to join the network of stakeholders. The new stakeholders held greater compulsory and institutional power than Veridium. This research contributes to the limited scholarship focused on ICT and power in environmental governance. Empirically it contributes to the ongoing discussion around the possibilities of blockchain technology for climate policy.

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Christopher D. Clack
Department of Computer Science
UCL
Gower Street
London
WC1E 6BT

 clack@cs.ucl.ac.uk