Yesterday, the very first academic journal dedicated to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies was announced. It’s called Ledger, and in the interests of full disclosure, I’m one of its editors. A lot of the questions about it can be answered by checking out the coverage over at CoinDesk and at Vice’s Motherboard blog (with mop-up questions answered in a couple of reddit threads), but I’ll give you the basic rundown here.
The long and short of it is that one of the things missing from the cryptocurrency world is a body of scholarship that develops over time. White papers come and go, but without permalinks or proper archiving, they exist in sporadic pockets, on hard drives here and in cloud storage there. No permanent record seems to exist, as yet, to act as a vetted resource for the development of the common knowledge base, or for the creation of an ongoing high-level discourse. At least, not in a peer-reviewed and open-source way.
In a recent argument on a web forum, one expert in Bitcoin demanded that another retract a white paper the second had written, because the first disagreed with it. This is both (a) common, and (b) not how progress is made. We firmly believe that the answer to a controversial or incorrect idea is not the retraction of the first idea, but the publication of a second, subsequent one — that is to say, another white paper or a review. With our open-access policies (including an open peer review process) we’re hoping to bring the idea of the “sober second look” to the current conversations. Some might say that a peer-reviewed journal would operate too slowly to keep up, and to this we might say that the opposite is true: time for deliberation isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
Maybe it won’t be as quick or as immediate as reddit or other online fora, but it will be academically rigorous, openly reviewed, and freely available to all as a resource for the production of new thought in the cryptocurrency world.
Take a moment to check out the website for the journal, over at LegerJournal.org. The call for papers is up now, and we’ll be accepting submissions until the end of the year, with the first issue hopefully going live at the end of Q1 2016. It’s going to be an interesting ride, and I hope you’ll come along for it.
Richard Ford Burley is an editor at the journal Ledger, as well as a writer, library worker, and doctoral candidate in English at Boston College (where he’s studying remix culture and the processes that generate texts). In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, and feminism (and cryptocurrencies) here at This Week In Tomorrow.