Every item (papers, article, etc.) in RePEc is identified by a unique and persistent handle, and has been for 25 years. Still, there is constant demand for additional persistent identifiers, see for example the introduction of the DOI. Yet, none of those identifiers clearly indicate who the owner of that item is. RePEc now introduces a way to take care of that by leveraging blockchain technology. A non-fungible token (NFT) is a non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger (Wikipedia).
Authors can create a record on a blockchain (a NFT) for their, say, article, by specifying the relevant RePEc handle. Then, they can log into their profile in the RePEc Author Service and register the NFT with the corresponding item. For this purpose, a new NFT section was created on the site. They just need to find the work this token applies to, and add it through a menu.
Authors need to be aware of certain limitations, though:
- The RePEc registration is not a wallet. While the registered token is checked against its blockchain, it is not a proof of ownership. The author still needs a crypto wallet to store the token securely.
- Registration is on a first come first serve basis in the sense that if a co-author already registered a token for a RePEc handle, no other can be added.
- There are many blockchains and new ones are continually created. The RePEc form is populated with 50 popular blockchains, but one can add another one in free text.
- Keep in mind that having a token on one blockchain does not prevent somebody from obtaining a token for the same RePEc handle on another blockchain. Thus one needs to secure NFTs on several blockchains. One can register with RePEc the tokens from several blockchains for the same handle.
- Registered tokens are only for the RePEc handle. The actual full text is still with the relevant publisher, who keeps the appropriate rights.
- RePEc handles are created by the publishers indexing their works in RePEc. They are free to delete those handles.
If this does not make sense to you, don’t worry, it works.