With a grant from the Algorand Foundation, Yale researchers are leading an interdisciplinary team of experts working to advance blockchain systems, while exploring their connections to economics and law.
The $5.75 million grant over 5 years will fund PAVE: A Center for Privacy, Accountability, Verification and Economics of Blockchain Systems. The center will be led by Charalampos Papamanthou, associate professor of computer science at Yale University.
The center includes computer scientists from Yale, Columbia University, City College of New York (CCNY), and Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); legal and economic experts from Yale; and a professor of behavioral finance from Columbia. CertiK, a company that focuses on blockchain security co-founded by Zhong Shao, Thomas L. Kempner Professor of Computer Science and Department Chair, and Ronghui Gu, Professor of Computer Science at Columbia University, will also participate in the center. .
“I am excited to begin working with my talented colleagues at Yale, Columbia, CCNY, EPFL and CertiK to advance the goals of PAVE, Yale’s Algorand Center of Excellence,” Papamanthou said. “The distinguishing feature of PAVE is to advance the foundations of blockchain systems using cryptography, distributed systems, and formal verification, while exploring the concrete connections of these foundations to economics and law. We are grateful to the Algorand Foundation for supporting a 5-year program of research, education and outreach, and we look forward to collaborating with them.
The team is one of 10 to be named Algorand Centers of Excellence, each aiming to build and manage multidisciplinary centers to advance research and support applied education on blockchain and crypto- change. The Algorand Foundation, which promotes blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, announced the winners today.
“The creation of PAVE advances our goal of leveraging our strength in cybersecurity through broad collaborations. This positions Yale’s CS department as an undisputed leader in this field,” said Jeffrey Brock, Dean of SEAS. “The center’s interdisciplinary approach also makes CS a valuable partner for researchers across the university.”
The overall goal of the Yale-led project is a multi-faceted approach designed to accelerate the deployment and adoption of blockchain, a decentralized, co-managed database designed to reliably store digital information. PAVE members will work on five axes, bringing together fields that rarely collaborate in the field of blockchain. It is an approach that will respond to the complex nature of the blockchain. For example, there are legal issues to consider in PAVE’s proposed techniques for deploying privacy. Similarly, the centre’s work on proof systems and consensus technology will involve certain economic aspects. The five areas are:
- Blockchain design. Blockchains first appeared nearly 15 years ago, but PAVE members say research into how they are created has only scratched the surface. Led by experts in blockchain technology and cryptography, PAVE will develop cutting-edge blockchain designs and protocols that provide privacy, fairness, and scalability.
- Formal verification of blockchains. To increase the security of blockchain architectures (including Algorand’s), PAVE researchers with programming language expertise will study formal verification (a means of mathematically ensuring that a system behaves as expected ) consensus protocols and smart contracts.
- Interaction of blockchains and economy. Led by PAVE researchers at Columbia Business School and in collaboration with senior computer science researchers, PAVE will study the economics of several fundamental components of blockchain systems.
- Interaction of blockchains and law. PAVE researchers who have worked in the interplay of computing and law will lead center participants through a two-pronged research program. They will explore topics such as the application of smart contracts, the responsibilities of software developers and consensus participants, and the interplay between privacy and regulation.
- Blockchain education, awareness and wider impacts. As part of the project, PAVE researchers will develop new courses in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space at all educational levels to promote the use of blockchain technology for the benefit of society.
In addition to Papamanthou, members of the center include, from Yale, Zhong Shao, Joan Feigenbaum and Ben Fisch; from Columbia University, Tal Malkin, Eran Tromer, and Gur Huberman; Rosario Gennaro of the City College of New York (CCNY); Bryan Ford from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL); and CertiK’s formal verification team.