• SV Insight

More Attention Should be Given to Academic Research for the Uprising of Blockchain

“Bitcoin price has dropped again…”

“Cryptocurrencies crash after stock market crash”

“Price crash, cryptocurrencies are doomed”

In the past year, for blockchain industry, whether it is the media, investors, or the general public, everyone seems to focus most of their attention on the ups and downs of the cryptocurrency price. In the face of the bear market for over half a year, even if you still have the mentality of making money, you have probably lost the ‘faith’ you had last year.

There is a truth that may be overlooked by many people: the general public’s high attention to cryptocurrencies (especially ICO) in the past two years is only a short period of time in the development of blockchain technology. The Bitcoin white paper was released 10 years ago. If we go back further, the articles cited in the white paper was the studies of the last century.

The short-term wealth-making effect brought by cryptocurrencies does have a huge influence, but it is only a splash in the development of blockchain technology. When the market goes down if you still want to continue growing in this field, should you return to rationality, still your heart, and learn from the most cutting-edge people about the technology itself?

Why emphasizing the role of academic research?

“Academic” sounds deep and dry to many people, however, without any academic advancement, an industry’s development foundation would be unreliable.

What is gratifying is that the academic circle of blockchain is on the rise when the cryptocurrency market is cooling down.

The top universities in the United States have opened blockchain labs and launched more and more blockchain-related courses. This technology is slowly moving from a minority research to the right track.

According to Coinbase’s research report, 42% of the top 50 universities in the world have opened at least one blockchain-related course, and Stanford University and Cornell University have each opened more than eight courses.

Campbell Harvey, a professor teaching blockchain-related courses at Duke University Business School, once said:” the blockchain technology is very complex and has many misunderstandings. What’s even more frightening is that people think they understand blockchain technology but actually show ignorance. Academic institutions have a huge responsibility to train the next generation of innovators.”

The blockchain-related courses at major universities are generally divided into two categories:

One type is more technically focused. A typical example is the blockchain course at Stanford Computer School, led by Professor Dan Boneh, who updates the course based on the latest technology developments each semester.

Among them, the most representative is CS251: Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain Technologies, which is a technical introductory course. The course covers all aspects of cryptocurrencies, including distributed consensus, blockchains, smart contracts, and applications. The topics and assignments are also developed around Bitcoin and Ethereum.

It can be said that this course is cultivating blockchain technical talents in a solid way, which is a scarce resource in the industry.

Professor Dan Boneh mentioned in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine that “the blockchain courses are easily approved by the curriculum committees. Even many Stanford faculty members who support these new courses have expressed that they want to attend these courses.”

The other type is more focused on economics and law, such as courses offered in universities in New York and Boston, where top economists and researchers who promote policy compliance work.

For example, the Sloan School of Business at MIT hired Simon Johnson, the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, as a resident consultant. Sloan Business School also opened a six-week online course taught by Professor Christian Catalini to help students build a deep understanding of blockchain technology and economics architecture. In addition, Professor Catalini is also the head of MIT’s technology innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management. His curriculum also includes the integration of blockchain technology with other frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

The blend of industry and academic circles:

In the past two years, the academic circle of blockchain is on the rise, and more and more top brains are beginning to explore this field of technology. They have also gained recognition and support from the industry.

The Media Lab of MIT actually established the DCI (Digital Currency Initiative) in 2015. This is a classic example of an industry-backed academic case. In DCI’s R&D lab, Bitcoin core developers Wladimir van der Laan and Cory Fields, and one of the authors of the Lightning Network white paper, Tadge Dryja, are important members.

In fact, thanks to the talent pool and good research atmosphere of the university, the industry has also made new breakthroughs. Tadge Dryja continues his research on Lightning Networks, and this summer, DCI lab began testing the smart contract capabilities of the Bitcoin Lightning Network. This smart contract is both private and scalable, and the off-chain solution will greatly increase the efficiency of the Bitcoin network. The lab has also published relevant academic papers, from deep-level anonymous algorithms to upper-level blockchain technology use cases, which is a great inspiration to the industry.

On the west coast of the United States, Stanford University also officially established the blockchain research center CBR this year. Its sponsors include the Ethereum Foundation, Dfinity, OmiseGO, Polychain, and other industry-leading projects and investment institutions. The blockchain academic circle is definitely growing.

Of course, in the blockchain space, the blending of industry and academic circles has two sides. In addition to the above examples of industry-backed academic circles, we can also see that more and more academic talents are beginning to enter the industry.

Silvio Micali, Professor of MIT and Turing Award winner, led the creation of the Algorand blockchain protocol. Thanks to his research on random algorithms, security protocols, and mechanism design, Algorand aims to improve the existing problems of Bitcoin and form a blockchain with low energy consumption, democratization, and low probability of fork.

Professor David Mazières, one of the heads of the Stanford Blockchain Research Center, is the chief scientist of the blockchain project Stellar. He also shared his academic research about Stellar consensus mechanism at the annual cryptography conference in Santa Barbara.

In addition, Professor Zhong Shao, Director of the Department of Computer Science at Yale University, and Columbia University Computer Science Professor Ronghui Gu, co-founded the blockchain security company CertiK, and applied the mathematical method of formal verification to the code verification of the blockchain. At present, in the field of blockchain security, CertiK is in a leading position in terms of financing and application.

There are many more such examples:

Professor Dawn Song of UC Berkeley has long researched and built computer security and privacy technologies, and led the creation of a blockchain project Oasis Labs, which is committed to building a privacy-first cloud computing platform on the blockchain; Professor Elaine Shi of Cornell University is also the chief scientist of blockchain project Thunder Token and has long been engaged in the research of consensus algorithms; In the past conference Devcon 3, Professor Emin Gün Sirer of Cornell University also shared some details about his project Avalanche, which is a new high-throughput, low-latency blockchain with smart contracts.

“Professional entrepreneurship” is rare in the past, but in the blockchain field, due to its technical difficulties and high research and development costs, the combination of academic and industry may be a path of the rapid breakthrough. The unique media attention in the blockchain field and the heat of capital are also beneficial to researchers to obtain more reasonable value returns.

How to quickly understand the combination of blockchain academic frontier and industry?

As we see the rise of the blockchain academic circle, as more frontier professionals began to pay attention to academic and technical breakthroughs, SV Insight will host the third Blockchain Connect Conference in Silicon Valley on January 11, 2019. The theme of the summit is “Academic Discussions and Technical Breakthroughs”.

The conference will be divided into two tracks. One track will focus on academic discussions, mainly led by professors, scholars, and blockchain core developers, who will bring the most cutting-edge academic and technical sharing. Professors like Ronghui Gu, Dawn Song, Elaine Shi, and others will participate in it.

The other track will focus on industrial applications, mainly led by the heads of the enterprise blockchain research, investors and entrepreneurs, who will bring the analysis of the current scientific research and venture capital. You will have the opportunity to meet Intel, Oracle, SAP, Tencent, Accenture and other blockchain projects heads and research leaders.

In addition, the conference also calls for academic papers in the field of blockchain to the majority of researchers. The authors of excellent papers will have the opportunity to participate in the exclusive closed-door meeting and engage in a fierce thought collision with the professors and scholars.

If you have blockchain-related academic papers, you are welcome to submit your paper to the deadline for submission is December 15, 11:59 PM PST.

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