With a growing number of brilliant minds forgoing academia in search of more lucrative and sustainable options, knowledge and curiosity are actively being cast aside in our society. We aim to strike a balance between money and research to reincentivize researching while making it a monetarily sustainable path for those pursuing academia. Our idea was inspired by the decentralization technique used by NFTs and other blockchain technologies. We use this project to provide a safe space for researchers to publish groundbreaking research without forcing them into the preying hands of journals. By supporting research that benefits the social good, Indicium is able to empower researchers to keep pushing on in their own respective fields and impact our lives for the better.

What it does

Our project, Indicium, is a one-stop-shop web application for selling and buying research papers. Unlike a journal, authors can upload their own research papers to our website and will receive sellable digital copies of their papers. These copies are sold almost like trading cards, as users want to read and sell their copies of the research paper. Authors are able to create digital copies of their work and allow the market to trade it freely for access. The digital tracking of the paper allows us to collect royalties for the original author every time it passes hands, so the author collects a percentage of every sale.

How we built it

We built our web app using a JavaScript + React frontend and a Python + Flask backend. Furthermore, we hosted our application as well as a database using Google Cloud Platform's BigQuery database and AppEngine.

Challenges we ran into

When coming up with our idea, we realized that piracy exists in the imperfect world we are in today. Although we cannot solve piracy as a whole, we can certainly do what we can to provide authors with a better medium for distributing their papers than journals. As for technical challenges, we wanted to make sure that people could not directly download PDFs so reproduction could be limited. Therefore, we opted for a text approach to the scraped document that is harder to directly copy.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are extremely proud to have come up with a fully-functional web application this year that allows users to upload their own content and begin trading with a virtual wallet. The sales and profiles are finished and functional.

What we learned

Arjun: Through working on this project, I learned how to create a React + Flask app using a REST API. Furthermore, I learned how to host our project and database on GCP, which was a fairly simple process (Thanks Google Cloud!). Lastly, I learned a little more about developing algorithms in Python, as well as hashing functions using hashlib for Python3.

Jacob: I learned a lot about the design of blockchain technologies for this project. I also had to learn a lot about web applications as a whole to work on the backend, since I mostly work on AI/ML things. It was a stark adjustment going from AI/ML to a largely object-oriented design and handing RESTful calls. It was really exciting getting to work on a platform that is accessible to so many people!

Akash: Through this hackathon, I learned how to implement React, functional components, and hooks to create a modern and responsive web interface. I used axios to send GET and POST requests to our flask server, and handled requests from the frontend.

Abhinav: Through this hackathon, I learned how to use React to render components and elements on the user interface, and working to pipeline data from the database to the server backend to the frontend effectively.

What's next for Indicium

Although some advanced key features of our project are not completely polished, we believe that Indicium and technologies like it have a place in the future of research. We would like to expand on this idea for not only research papers but to other digital media that authors wish to protect. We also would like to provide authors the ability to host their content for free for certain groups of individuals, such as students or non-corporation entities. We would also like to revisit the NFT/Blockchain roots of this project and revisit making this a completely decentralized system in the future, such that authors have the choice between multiple marketplaces as well.

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