# 2022 EF Academic Grants Round The following are a number of domains and related project ideas for the EF Academic Grants Round (2022). Some items reference prior work that can be formalized, extended, or used as inspiration, whereas other items are more fully formed project ideas. Please use this list as inspiration, but do not let it constrain you. We are excited to review applications for any academic projects that relate to Ethereum. [toc] ## Domains ### Economics - Rollup economics: incentives for decentralised sequencers, risk management for bridges/rollup operators, congestion/resource pricing, decentralised markets for fraud proofs/validity proofs. - [Understanding rollup economics from first principles](https://barnabe.substack.com/p/understanding-rollup-economics-from?utm_source=url) - [MEV Auction: Auctioning transaction ordering rights as a solution to Miner Extractable Value](https://ethresear.ch/t/mev-auction-auctioning-transaction-ordering-rights-as-a-solution-to-miner-extractable-value/6788) - [Spam resistant block creator selection via burn auction](https://ethresear.ch/t/spam-resistant-block-creator-selection-via-burn-auction/5851) - [Against PoS for rollup leader election](https://ethresear.ch/t/against-proof-of-stake-for-zk-op-rollup-leader-election/7698) - [SoK: Validating Bridges as a Scaling Solution for Blockchains](https://stonecoldpat.github.io/images/validatingbridges.pdf), McCorry et al., 2021 - Incentives in PBS / builder markets - [Proposer/block builder separation-friendly fee market designs](https://ethresear.ch/t/proposer-block-builder-separation-friendly-fee-market-designs/9725) - [Two-slot proposer/builder separation](https://ethresear.ch/t/two-slot-proposer-builder-separation/10980) - [State of research: increasing censorship resistance of transactions under proposer/builder separation (PBS)](https://notes.ethereum.org/@vbuterin/pbs_censorship_resistance) - [Committee-driven MEV smoothing](https://ethresear.ch/t/committee-driven-mev-smoothing/10408) - Data analysis and econometrics of the fee market(s): understand demand trends, market events and user valuations; time series analysis - [Transaction Fees on a Honeymoon: Ethereum's EIP-1559 One Month Later](https://arxiv.org/abs/2110.04753), Reijsbergen et al., 2021 - [Quantifying Blockchain Extractable Value: How dark is the forest?](https://arxiv.org/abs/2101.05511), Qin et al., 2021 - [Empirical Analysis of EIP-1559: Transaction Fees, Waiting Time, and Consensus Security](https://arxiv.org/abs/2201.05574), Yiu et al., 2022 - Control systems for blockchain infrastructure: after EIP-1559, what else can be "controllerized"? Ideal tool for decentralised autonomous systems, but perhaps not well-understood enough in open, adversarial environments. - [Circulating supply equilibrium](https://ethresear.ch/t/circulating-supply-equilibrium-for-ethereum-and-minimum-viable-issuance-during-the-proof-of-stake-era/10954#6-enforcing-minimum-viable-issuance-with-a-variable-base-reward-factor-19): Can we target a fixed staking ratio ("minimum viable issuance") with a variable base reward factor? I.e., increase validator rewards when not enough ETH is staked, decrease them otherwise. What is the interplay with other components of validator rewards, e.g., transaction fees and MEV? - Crypto as legal tender: There has been several times where x commodity was made legal tender. E.g. [tobacco in the 17th century](https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/tobacco-money). Study these experiments and provide analysis about the implication of using eth, bitcoin, or other crypto as legal tender. --- ### Consensus/Protocol #### Context Ethereum Proof-of-Stake is built on a consensus protocol that combines the security of traditional BFT protocols with the performance desired from a blockchain system. Outputs from consensus research reflect directly in the [Ethereum consensus specification](https://github.com/ethereum/consensus-specs), such as fixes for identified attacks and performance improvements. - Background reading: - [Casper FFG Paper](https://arxiv.org/abs/1710.09437), [Casper FFG Explainer](https://www.adiasg.me/2020/03/31/casper-ffg-explainer.html) - [Gasper - Combining GHOST and Casper](https://arxiv.org/abs/2003.03052) - [Weak Subjectivity](https://notes.ethereum.org/@adiasg/weak-subjectvity-eth2), [Weak Subjectivity Calculations](https://github.com/runtimeverification/beacon-chain-verification/blob/master/weak-subjectivity/weak-subjectivity-analysis.pdf) - Recent research: - [Three Attacks on Proof-of-Stake Ethereum](https://arxiv.org/abs/2110.10086) - [Low-cost attacks on Ethereum 2.0 by sub-1/3 stakeholders](https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.02247) - [Availability-Finality Dilemma](https://arxiv.org/abs/2009.04987) #### Research Areas - Improvement of the consensus specification: - Improve/add desirable functionality without changing the fundamental design. - E.g., identification of bugs and proposing fixes, performance improvements. <!-- - The Beacon Chain is already deployed, and there are components of varying levels of criticality: the p2p layer, fork choice rule, and justification & finalization. --> - Protocol redesign: - Changes that may include fundamental redesigns of the protocol to incorporate massive improvements. - E.g., [single slot finality](https://ethresear.ch/t/a-model-for-cumulative-committee-based-finality/10259) & [improvements](https://notes.ethereum.org/@vbuterin/single_slot_finality), [new sharding designs](https://notes.ethereum.org/3t5cbN7cQnG6VxjgNMKymA) - Review & Analysis: - Review & analysis of lesser-reviewed components. - Eg., weak subjectivity, security of committee sampling, state size compression & sync, proof-of-custody, etc. --- ### Formal Verification #### Context Formal verification allows for automated, machine-based verification of the correctness of software programs. A major interest is in verifying the correctness of the Ethereum consensus specification and identification of bugs. ***Note***: Ethereum consensus specification is a misnomer - we mean [the Python implementation](https://github.com/ethereum/consensus-specs/blob/dev/specs/phase0/beacon-chain.md#beacon-chain-state-transition-function) which serves as the protocol description for software implementers. Past Work: | Ethereum Component | Formal Verification Work | Verified By | | ------------------ | -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- | -------------------- | | Deposit Contract | [Deposit Contract](https://github.com/runtimeverification/deposit-contract-verification) | Runtime Verification | | Beacon Chain | [Coq Model & Verification](https://github.com/runtimeverification/beacon-chain-verification) | Runtime Verification | | Beacon Chain | [K Model & Verification](https://github.com/runtimeverification/beacon-chain-verification) | Runtime Verification | | Beacon Chain | [K Specification](https://github.com/runtimeverification/beacon-chain-spec) | Runtime Verification | | Beacon Chain | [Dafny Spec & Verification](https://github.com/ConsenSys/eth2.0-dafny) | ConsenSys Dafny Team | #### Research Areas - Improvements & extensions of existing formal verification projects: - E.g., verifying the fork choice component - Infrastructure for verification from Python: - Tools that can help with easier verification of the Python implementation. - E.g., python-to-verification language transpiler, support for verification in Python, etc. - Anything that helps verify the correctness of the Python "spec" and/or full client implementations of the protocol. - Novel techniques for analysing and verifying applications in the execution layer. --- ### MEV Maximum Extractable Value (MEV) is a treasure-trove of a research area. Topics include: * MEV minimization in Layer 1 protocol constructions * MEV market designs to allow open access and reduce centralization pressures * Investigation, categorization, and formalization of MEV techniques used in production today --- ### Cryptography #### ZKP - Better FFT algorithms - This is an example of a recent advance in fft for Elipic curves: https://ethresear.ch/t/the-ec-fft-algorithm-without-elliptic-curve-and-isogenies/11346 - Improve upon this to find better ways to reduce the time of dividing one polynomial over prime fields by another. #### Better polynomial commitments Kate, Fri and others are all examples of polynomial commitments. Better polynomial commitments help us build better ZKPs (smaller proofs, faster proving time, no trusted setup). *Find better polynomial commitments.* #### Keccak [This](https://hackmd.io/sK7v0lr8Txi1bgION1rRpw?view#Overview) is the most efficient thus far. Do better! #### ecdsa We have circuits for both public key generation and signature verification [here](https://github.com/0xPARC/circom-secp256k1). We built a library of BigNum circuits (addition, multiplication, modulo) and then build the ECC operations from this. We use a few tricks like xjsnark's BigMultiplication trick. And for public key generation we do a lot of precomputation and caching powers of the generator point to reduce the number of point additions. Unfortunately you can't do this precomputation for signature verification though so that circuit is still really expensive. Can we do better? #### Constraint hacking In the spirit of https://akosba.github.io/papers/xjsnark.pdf optimize as much as possible the important tools at hand. Use custom constraints and plookup to minimize keccak hash function proving time / verifier time. --- ### P2P networking #### Research Areas - Performance improvements: - Improvements to signature aggregation techniques, message gossip, peer discovery, etc. - Advanced sync techniques: - Advanced node sync techniques, state size compression, etc. - Monitoring & analysis: - Tools & techniques for analysis of p2p network health, early detection of attacks, identification of p2p bugs, overall data analysis, etc. - Application of tools/techniques to Ethereum mainnet. What previously unknown conclusions can be drawn? - Privacy - Nodes leak a lot of information. What techniques can be used at the p2p layer to add more privacy guarantees? --- ### Hardware * Open source hardware design: Hardware design for wallets, fast BLS verifier & signer, etc. * Use of HSMs in staking and other critical blockchain activities