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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).

Giulio Prisco


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