BUIP046: (passed) Faster, Higher Quality Publication Process for the Bitcoin Research Journal Ledger


Active Member
Sep 21, 2015
Proposer: Christopher E. Wilmer (BU member)

Project Title: Faster, Higher Quality Publication Process for the Bitcoin Research Journal Ledger

Bitcoin Address: 3LedgercRWmJErpMU9RazNoX3eNb6CQpKD

Motivation: Ledger is the first peer-reviewed scholarly journal dedicated to Bitcoin/blockchain research. Its mission is aligned closely with two “Areas of Interest” highlighted in Bitcoin Unlimited’s call for proposals: (1) quality control and (2) outreach. First, by encouraging and facilitating community members to submit their novel Bitcoin-related ideas to a peer-review process, the journal helps improve the quality of Bitcoin research. Second, the journal provides a credible venue for Bitcoin research (including research that is being carried out by BU developers!) that can reach a wider community of scholars, scientists, and engineers (and also the public). Moreover, since many popular venues for Bitcoin discussion, both non-technical (e.g., /r/bitcoin, bitcointalk.org) and technical (e.g., dev mailing lists, IRC), suffer from censorship, there is a pressing need for the community to support alternative (neutral) venues.

Providing this important service to the Bitcoin community, however, has been a challenge with an all-volunteer staff. Ledger has recently experimented with paying a part-time editor to expedite and improve the publication process. This initial experiment was very successful and we now wish to raise funds to keep this part-time editor for the next year of operations.

Objectives: Ledger aspires to improve the author experience, the size of the readership, and the credibility of the journal. The specific objectives of this proposal are to (1) decrease the average turnaround time (from submission to the first round of reviewer of feedback) to 6 weeks from its current time of 12+ weeks, (2) increase the average number of reviewers per article from 2.5 to 3.5, and (3) to publish 12-15 articles in 2017.

Project Duration: 12 months, Feb. 1st 2017 – Feb. 1st, 2018

Project Team: Dr. Christopher E. Wilmer and Dr. Peter R. Rizun (both BU members) are the managing editors of the journal. We also have a long list of editors and editorial board members that can be seen on our web page (http://ledgerjournal.org/ojs/index.php/ledger/about/editorialTeam). Note that one of our editors, Antony Zegers, is also a BU member. Everyone involved is a volunteer, except Mr. Richard A. Ford Burley, who we recently having been paying on a part-time basis. Richard has a degree in English and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at Boston College. He has extensive writing/editing/publishing experience and is broadly knowledgeable about Bitcoin.

Summary of Current Work: Our first published issue can be viewed here (http://ledgerjournal.org/ojs/index.php/ledger/issue/view/2). It is worth pointing out that this inaugural issue represents the tip of the iceberg of the work that the Ledger team has accomplished since its conception in mid-2014. Recruiting an editorial board, recruiting editors, finding an appropriate publisher, developing the submission protocol and editing standards, and marketing the journal to prospective authors was all done in the 2014-2015 period, and in 2016 over 40 submissions were considered, and reviewed, leading to 10 accepted articles published at the end of that year.

Description of Activities: As “Deputy Managing Editor” Richard’s activities include the following (estimated at 15 hours per week of work):

Regular activities

- Screening incoming submissions (~1-2 hours)

- Copyediting articles accepted for publication (~3-4 hours)

- Compiling reviewer feedback into open peer-review documents (~2-3 hours)

- Coordinating with the publisher on publishing accepted articles (~0.5-1 hours)

- Coordinating weekly editor’s meetings (~1-2 hours)

- Responding to general inquires (~1-2 hours)

- Assigning papers to editors and guiding them through each process step (~1-2 hours)

- Total: ( 9.5 - 16 hours, plus ad hoc activities listed below)

Ad Hoc activities

- Identifying and eliminating procedural bottlenecks in the publication process

- Implementing tools/procedures to improve the quality of submissions and the review process

Anticipated Challenges and Uncertainties: The biggest challenge the journal faces is the same one faced by all new journals: establishing credibility. Credibility is closely tied to selectivity (i.e., accepting only the highest quality articles for publication), but a new journal must first build a significant volume of submissions before it can be selective. As with digital currencies, journals experience network effects that are self-reinforcing, and it is uncertain at this time whether Ledger will climb in prominence or descend into obscurity. However, there is little competition to Ledger that is not simultaneously narrow in scope (for example, cryptography conference proceedings that publish Bitcoin research but are not suitable for economics-based or law-based submissions). In this regard, Ledger is both first, and prominent, as can be measured by some press we have (and continue) to receive. See Nature News article that mentions Ledger below.


Specific to this proposal, some anticipated challenges and uncertainties exist around the authors and reviewers, whose promptness is not within direct control of Ledger. However, in our experience thus far, authors themselves are not bottlenecks in the publication process, and delays caused by reviewers can be managed by casting wider nets (i.e., asking more reviewers to participate).

It perhaps goes without saying that meeting the third objective, publishing 12-15 articles in 2017, depends on future author submissions and is thus uncertain. However, even in its early phase, Ledger has been receiving 2-4 submissions per month on average, and we hope to increase this number significantly by the end of the year.

Budget: $16,250

- $325 per week for 15 hours per week for the Deputy Managing Editor

- 50 weeks (2 weeks are taken off each year for vacation)

Ledger is partly funded ($500 per year) by Coin Center. We are interested in pursuing additional funding from other sources, which (if enough could be raised) would be used to either increase the time commitment of the Deputy Managing Editor or to hire a second part-time editor whose desired expertise would be more technical and whose focus would be more on vetting incoming submissions.

Impact: If successful, Ledger can have a significant short term impact on the adoption and implementation of protocol changes/upgrades (e.g., block size increase). In particular, research done by BU developers, research funded by BU through the proposal process, could carry more weight if published in Ledger after having been peer-reviewed. In the long term (5-10 years), Ledger aspires to be a top journal for Bitcoin/blockchain related research, whose articles significantly influence global Bitcoin/blockchain-technology policy, and where many of the exciting future innovations are first discussed.
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Active Member
Dec 31, 2015
The idea certainly has merit. Couple of thoughts:

I might just not know where to look, but are BU financials currently published anywhere? Major budget items and burn rate against a balance sheet would help in the relative scale of the investment.

I would think that there are likely institutions and/or corporations that might underwrite a portion of the operational costs in return for their logo on the mast head. I think here of academia such as MIT or Cornell, and corps such as Overstock/t0 or Coinbase. I don't propose holding off on this decision while such external assistance is sought. I am wondering if some nominal fee passed to some sort of 'nonprofit matchmaker' might be a reasonable second investment. Obviously on another vote.
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Active Member
Dec 31, 2015
Thanks for the link. Financials look healthy. Is this where we ACK the BUIP? If so, I'll ACK.