Scientific publishing is a surprisingly lucrative business. In 2015 it was estimated that the market for scientific, technical and medical (STM) publications was around $25 billion.
The sizeable market is currently dominated by five publishers who between them have profit margin expectations higher than the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon.
As with much of the traditional business world though, this profit stays with the higher echelons and is not filtered down to the writers, researchers and scientists who actually produce the content.
Even more galling in the current system is a money-go-round where governments usually fund the initial research before paying again for other scientists to review the findings before the publishers themselves come in, select and package up the vetted research before sell back to those same governmental institutions and universities who contribute the mass of content in the first place.
Looking at this bird’s-eye-view explanation of this triangular system, it is not hard to see why those high profit margins are achieved and why scientists and research institutions regularly criticise such a loaded economic model.
It would be a mistake to categorise Orvium as just another copyright platform as they are not concerned with general publishing but are laser-focused on one particular market, the STM segment we’ve just discussed.
And within this niche sector they are looking to create the first open source and decentralised platform for managing peer-review scholarly publications and all of the associated data.
Creating Decentralised Autonomous Journals (DAJs) creates a new paradigm for science dissemination and participation which introduces a set of unique advantages.
If successful, it would certainly return copyright and financial entitlement to the author and/or reviewer but at the same time eliminate the opaque and possibly biased review process that predominates today.
Orvium’s source code will be published under an open source license where every action, task, and transaction in the system will be accessible to anyone.
This transparent nature of the business model is designed to support and encourage global scientific research and thus drive organic, functional demand for the native token.
In addition to DAJs, the platform will also allow for science patronage where any person or institution can challenge the scientific community to solve specific problems or request the society to contribute to research programs.
Although the subject matter may be seen by some as dryly academic, the white-paper has been rendered accessible, avoiding the kind of jargon that might put off those without a formal science background.
It is not cluttered with unnecessary images and hyperbole but devotes the content to setting out the need, functionality and merits of Orvium in a well organised, logical fashion.
The first third of the document contains an overview outlining the current state of play of STM research and analyses both the barriers, inefficiencies and opportunities inherent within the system.
Next comes an explanation of how Orvium intends to exploit the situation and includes a look at both their business model and the mechanics of the token generation event.
The final section tackles the technology aspect, roadmap and introduces the team.
In addition to the white-paper, the company’s website also hosts several PDF downloads providing extra information, including a 24 page technical guide on the platform architecture that features details of an initial architectural design of the MVP.
The Orvium token (ORV) is ERC-20 compatible and will power the platform.
Phases of the manuscripts’ production cycle will generate exchanges of ORV between the various parties involved.
This cycle can be summarised in four main phases, which are strictly correlated and interdependent:
• Idea discovery and hypothesis generation
• Approval and research funding
• Conduct research
• Dissemination of results
Within these areas, manuscript submission, peer review, payments for copyright licenses, research data sharing and journal management will result in ORV being paid by either institutions, authors, peer reviewers, journal owners or readers.
The blockchain will naturally timestamp each stage and provide traceability for all activity pertaining to any given document.
When they make a manuscript submission, authors can stake a number of ORV tokens in the quantity of their choosing to encourage other researchers for peer reviews. These ORV tokens can be claimed by reviewers after their reviews are accepted. Authors will be able to set their own copyright limitations in terms of redistribution.
For the science patronage element of the platform, when a challenge is created, individuals or institutions will need to stake the ORV tokens. If a solution is not provided to the task posed, the tokens may be reclaimed.
Before taking a closer look at the team it is worth making a note of the most complex experimental facility ever built and which hosts the largest single machine in the world.
The location in question is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27 kilometre ring of superconducting magnets that straddles the France-Switzerland border, built by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.
The importance placed upon this project by the scientific community, United Nations as well as national governments needs to be understood to fully appreciate the current peer standing of the Orvium team and their advisors.
They are an all-star lineup with the vast majority having extensive CERN experience.
That is not to say it is a CERN-only club though, with recruits having worked for the likes of Volkswagen Data:Lab, Deutsche Telekom and Asos to name but a few.
One of the founders for example, Manuel Martin, is the project leader and blockchain expert who has led critical data management, big data and machine learning initiatives for CERN and collaborated with the likes of NASA-JPL, Fermilab (U.S. Dept. of Energy) and GSI.
This depth of professionalism runs throughout the various members of the management, technical, scientific and marketing teams.
Not only does this bode well for the technical aspect of the project but also academically as they are suited to understanding and implementing a framework for managing the scholarly publications’ life cycles and the associated data that Orvium is designed to tackle.
Simply put, researchers and investors alike would be hard-pressed to find another ICO with such qualified talent.
The only minor but nagging concern is if these individuals, who are at the top of their respective fields, can be moulded into a cohesive group.
Large projects, whether they are industrial, governmental, military or scientific such as CERN, often work on a compartmentalised basis; teams focus on specific tasks with limited overlap with other departments.
The nature of this ICO will be much more compact requiring the integration of skill-sets, personalities and egos to achieve full collaboration between all parties.
It is perhaps interesting to note that additional recruitment is highlighted in the early stages of the roadmap so maybe this is where the necessary hod-carriers will be employed to support the stakeholders already onboard.
The benefits of marketing can sometimes be lost on projects whose teams are personally focused on the technology or product innovation.
Normally, an allocation of just 10% of ICO funds for marketing, as proposed by Orvium, would sound alarm bells for a long term investor.
However, in this case there is an additional 20% earmarked for “science and collaboration” which goes a long way to addressing the initial concern as it shows a fundamental understanding of their target market.
While the initial marketing budget can be seen as a means of raising general awareness, the extra resources from “science and collaboration” will be used to reach out and establish partnerships with leading universities and research institutions.
These are the very people who would likely contribute, participate and benefit from the platform.
Such a move should tap into an audience already hungry for a new system and provide added impetus to the crucial fledging stage of development and sustain interest beyond.
Tokenomics and RoadMap
The tokenomics for the ORV token are refreshingly straightforward overall.
The company is seeking a very reasonable hard-cap for this initiative of $20 million with no soft-cap and the ICO will see 60% of the total 378.3 million supply on offer for $0.10 per ORV.
A further 20% will go to Orvium OU, the Estonian registered company set up in partnership with Bitcoin Suisse AG to handle the token generation event. The remainder will be split between the team, advisors and partners. This allocation is subject to a three year vesting period which will provide monetary incentive for the core team’s enthusiasm to be maintained for the project going forward.
Interested investors will need to complete KYC/AML procedure and be whitelisted before they can participate. Once this is passed they can contribute either BTC/XBT or ETH, or if they prefer to use fiat, USD, CHF, EUR, SGD, DKK, GBP will also be accepted as payment.
Although the exact date of the 4 week public sale is still to be announced, it is scheduled to fall between Q2 and Q3 of this year.
Brief mention is made of a possible 10% bonus for early investors but that will be confirmed either way before the sale begins. As it is so minimal, whether it is applied or not will likely have little impact upon the majority of investors decisions to contribute or not.
The roadmap breaks down into six sections, named after phases of the life cycle of a star – fortunately choosing to forgo the use of the final, black hole stage.
The document lays down a methodical and achievable route, proposing relevant goals that cohesively build towards the product rollout.
The remainder of this year and much of next year will see support given to the Science and Technology marketing aspect as well as the R&D program.
According to their timeline, a first public release of the platform can be expected as early as Q3 this year.
Initial development work has already begun on a functional prototype which, if all goes to plan, will see a fully functioning platform ready for release at the end of 2019.
While doing the groundwork for this ICO, Orvium have ticked a lot of the boxes that an investor looks for when evaluating digital token opportunities.
There is a clear need for a platform to break the current oligopolistic market structure and bring ownership back to the content creators whilst providing true transparency.
Logical minds have been at work on the tokenomics as they are fairly priced and uncomplicated, without any obscure early bird bonus structures to muddy the waters.
They have recruited a world class team to take on the challenge and have already established a strategic and tactical marketing plan to raise awareness and adoption of the new platform.
While still flying under the radar at this stage, with not even a set date for the public sale, over 1300 people have signed up for their Telegram channel which hints at prospective growing hype as the project moves forward.
This is, then, by all appearances a high calibre ICO, headed up by a first rate team with an excellent track record in their own respective fields.
An assessment of the risk attached to this project appears to relate more to external factors – specifically, whether there will be a disposition within the wider field of academia to gravitate to more modern approaches to publishing research such as the model proposed by Orvium – as opposed to internal factors which appear comparatively minimal when compared to the vast majority of ICOs currently operating in the market.