- Academic institutions are shifting to blockchain-based decentralized data storage systems to secure and make their data more accessible.
- Universities like MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Utah are employing these decentralized systems to protect their data while increasing global access.
Academic institutions, the custodians of pivotal data spanning decades of research, are becoming increasingly wary of centralized data storage models. They are seeking safer and more accessible solutions to safeguard their invaluable knowledge repositories.
Danny O’Brien, a senior fellow at the Filecoin Foundation and Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW), expressed concerns about data stored by academic institutions disappearing due to the vulnerabilities of centralized storage models. A recent survey by the Filecoin Foundation shed light on this, revealing that 71% of Americans have lost information and records owing to issues like deleted hyperlinks or locked online accounts.
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The Power of Decentralized Storage
Decentralized data storage is emerging as the antidote to these issues. O’Brien mentioned that prominent institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of South Carolina, among others, are turning to Filecoin for blockchain-based storage.
MIT, in collaboration with FFDW, is working on a three-year project to explore how decentralized technology can bolster its Open Learning programs, including the ‘OpenCourseWare’ which provides free online materials from over 2,500 MIT courses. With decentralized storage, these course materials are cataloged and preserved, expanding their accessibility worldwide.
In a similar vein, the University of Utah employs decentralized storage to secure and democratize large data sets. Professor Valerio Pascucci explained how the university’s Center for Extreme Data Management Analysis and Visualization has adopted a solution from Seal Storage, a decentralized cloud storage platform backed by Filecoin. This system bolsters the goals of the National Science Data Fabric (NSDF) — a pilot program working to democratize data.
Pascucci emphasized how decentralized storage empowers Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), small colleges, and other disadvantaged organizations by granting them access to critical scientific data. This accessibility fosters a more inclusive research landscape by lowering the barriers to entry.
Obstacles to Overcome
Despite the increasing adoption of decentralized storage models, several challenges persist. Distributing vast data collections requires intricate processing capabilities and technical know-how. For instance, for NASA’s open climate data set distribution, NSDF’s OpenVisus data format had to be modified to fit Seal Storage’s model. Identifying specific information blocks on the blockchain remains complex.
Yet, the rise of decentralized storage models in academia is significant. As O’Brien noted, academia, often seen as slow-moving, is proving to be an early adopter of innovative blockchain-based technologies. As institutions like the University of Utah and NSDF continue to explore use cases, the potential of decentralized storage continues to unfold, potentially transforming the landscape of academic data management.