National Science Foundation Awards Research Grants on the Science and Applications of Cryptocurrency

Bitcoin Magazine
National Science Foundation Awards Research Grants on the Science and Applications of Cryptocurrency

The National Science Foundation has awarded research grants on the science and applications of crypto-currency, with approximately $1 million awarded to date. The NSF initiative is part of the “Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace” program for cybersecurity research and development to minimize the dangers of cyber technology, promote education and training in cybersecurity, establish a science of cybersecurity and convert promising cybersecurity research into practice.

The NSF grant has been awarded to Emin Sirer at Cornell University (grant information here), Elaine Shi, Michael Hicks, Jonathan Katz and David Van Horn at the University of Maryland (grant information here), and Dawn Song at the University of California-Berkeley (grant information here).

Emin Sirer, an associate professor of computer science at Cornell University, researches operating systems, networking and distributed systems. His current projects involve a novel secure operating system and system infrastructure for high-performance cloud computing applications.

“We plan to investigate the fundamental principles of cryptocurrency protocols, develop programming language support for smart contracts, and open-source secure systems infrastructure for cryptocurrency services, such as exchanges,” Sirer told CoinTelegraph in reference to the NSF grant.

Elaine Shi, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and the Maryland Cybersecurity Center, and the principal investigator for the largest NSF grant at the University of Maryland, launched the world’s first undergraduate laboratory course that combines “smart” contracts – computer programs that can automatically execute the terms of a contract – and cryptocurrency.

“Smart contracts will shape the future of our financial transactions and e-commerce,” Shi said after the laboratory course. “They carry out high-value financial transactions, so their security is particularly important. We learned many lessons from this lab, including it is very tricky to write a safe cryptocurrency contract.”

“We believe that our research can help establish cryptocurrency as a prominent research area, and make a big impact in shaping the future of financial transactions and e-commerce,” Shi told CoinDesk referring to the NSF grant.

Dawn Song, a professor of computer science at U.C. Berkeley, researches security and privacy issues in computer systems and networks, including software security, networking security, database security, distributed systems security, and applied cryptography.

The NSF project wants to establish a rigorous scientific foundation for cryptocurrencies by leveraging cryptography, game theory, programming languages and systems security techniques. Expected outcomes include new cryptocurrency designs with provable security properties, financially enforceable cryptographic protocols whose security properties are backed by enforceable payments in case of a breach, smart contract systems that are easy to program and formally verifiable, as well as high-assurance systems for storing and handling high-value cryptocurrencies and transactions.

This is one of the first large research grants on digital currencies awarded by a government. Earlier this year, the U.K. government launched a new research initiative to bring together the Research Councils, Alan Turing Institute and Digital Catapult with industry in order to address the research opportunities and challenges for digital currency technology, and decided to increase research funding in this area by £10 million ($14.6 million USD).

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New Ethereum Foundation Executive Director and Board Members Signal a Reboot for Ethereum

One of the strengths of Ethereum is its decentralized nature, giving it a wider, more stable base. There are Ethereum project teams in different parts of the world, including Amsterdam, Berlin, Switzerland and Brazil. (For example, Geth was deployed by the Amsterdam team while Eth was produced by the Berlin team.)

If there is a center to Ethereum, it would be in the beautiful town of Zug, Switzerland, home of the Ethereum Foundation that overseas the project’s finances, manages the funds raised in the Ether sale and determines the long-term vision and direction of Ethereum.

Stephan Tual, chief communications officer for the Ethereum project, told Bitcoin Magazine that the new executive director and board members represent a fresh start, a way to reboot the organization.

“[W]e had a very clear goal to recruit from verticals that were varied, ranging from the world of manufacturing, IoT, education, politics, health, finance and more,” he said. “Basically, anywhere where Ethereum could be embedded and make a difference.”

The new foundation executive director is Ming Chan, a Swiss-born Chinese American MIT computer science and media arts graduate, who has extensive experience working with educators, scientists and inventors to found and grow innovative new business ventures.

The new board members are Vitalik Buterin (president of the board), Lars Klawitter, Vadim Levitin, and Wayne Hennessy-Barrett.

For day-to-day decisions an “executive” consisting of Stephan Tual, Gavin Wood and Jeffrey Wilcke is in charge, with assistance from Aeron Buchanan, Jutta Steiner, Kelley Becker and Frithjof Weinert.

How’s the Launch Going So Far?

The launch so far is going far better than expected. The main Ethereum blockchain is in play and already users can access their pre-sale wallets, mine ether at the full reward rate, and use or deploy decentralized applications on the main network.

“We’re delighted with the stability of the network so far, as results have exceeded expectations and more and more developers are generating the Genesis block and joining the network,” Tual said. “Real time statistics on the network health can be viewed at

“So far the Frontier launch has been exceptionally smooth, due in large part to our intense Olympic test phase, as well as our robust user-guides and the tutorials written by dedicated members of our community,” Ethan Wilding, resident Ethereum philosopher and co-founder of Ledger Labs told Bitcoin Magazine. “This is, however, a development release, and so a willingness to use the command line is required.”

“Most of the questions we’ve had since this launch are from general users eager to learn how to mine ether and get wallet access on the Ethereum platform using command line; we’re always happy to help,” he said. “As our platform is tested further and made even more robust, we will continue to improve upon the user-experience by introducing our graphical user-interfaces for such operations in a future release.”

Bitcoin Magazine will continue to follow this story and keep you informed on new developments.


Photo Roland Zumbuehl / Wikimedia Commons

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