The recent explosion in popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has created a new avenue for creators and entrepreneurs to fund their work. Built on top of cryptocurrency blockchains such as Ethereum and Cardano, NFTs represent certificates of ownership of a physical or digital asset. These tokens can be bought, sold, and traded as a means to digitally transfer ownership of the represented asset. While NFTs have most commonly been used to represent digital artwork, they can be used for a myriad of other purposes, such as tickets to an event, ownership of a musical composition, or software licensing. This has presented an unconventional opportunity for scientific research: decentralized crowdfunding.
Rather than relying on funding from traditional sources (academia and research institutions), scientists can present research ideas to the general public and receive funding by selling tokens to cryptocurrency holders that want to support the work. In return, these tokens serve as proof of a person's support. Additionally, these tokens can grant special rights to their owners, such as receiving free access to journal articles published about the research, exclusive tours of facilities, souvenirs from an experiment, etc. Tokenizing patronage in science provides an exciting way to get people interested in STEM and opens the doors to a radically different way to fund research.
Ascension Sciences, LLC are pioneering this concept in the field of space-based materials research. NFTs will be created and sold to fund experiments, and the owner of each NFT will receive a one-of-a-kind space-flown souvenir from the experiment at the conclusion of the project.