Double-Blind Grant Review

The Problem:

A Zealous Solution:

A grant proposal appears. Like shielded memos, zero return address is required - we don’t know who submitted the grant proposal.

MGRC scores the proposal and offers feedback. Again, like shielded memos, zero return addresses are required - we don’t know who gave what score to the grant proposal.

If the proposal passes initial review, the grant candidate(s) may come forward and reveal themselves to continue to second phase of the review process.

MGRC publishes scores/feedback (coinpetition?), again, this time with new information about the candidates and their potential.

At this point, if MGRC fails to fund the grant, we know that the idea is good but the team could be better. Perhaps a newly organized team will step up to bring the good idea to life.

Much-Needed Bonus:

This can prevent favoritism (MGRC selecting their pre-approved “relatives”) and keep @MGRC accountable to the will of the Zcash Community

Another Bonus:

This will allow candidates with great ideas but poor teams to gain traction.

For the zpl,
James

3 Likes

Relevant: https://twitter.com/ElectricCoinCo/status/1310591090592948224/retweets/with_comments

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I kindly request an official response from the @MGRC at their earliest convenience -

Is my Double-Blind Grant Review proposal an effective and viable method to welcoming more grants and reviewing them without biases?

It appears as if the MGRC is operating as if there are cost constraints despite that fact that millions, perhaps billions, will be available to administer grants, including to build the grant platform, itself.

Therefore, it may be prudent to consider a new tooling that enables anonymity, with or without shielded memos.

Couple of points of critique, that reflect my views as an MGRC member, and should not be taken as representative of the entire MGRC. (On that note, the only “official” communication from the MGRC for the foreseeable future will be through meeting minutes and committee votes).

The overall flow you have proposed is very similar to the current draft proposal circulating within the MGRC (a multi-stage review process, with an initial signaling of interest in the idea, and then a more thorough secondary review).

I am in strong favor of a (partially) blinded process, certainly for the initial review. And this is something I will bring up for discussion at the next meeting.

On naming: The proposed mechanism is a single-blind process, not a double-blind one (the applicants know who they are submitting to, the committee knows they are reviewing a grant proposal).

It appears as if the MGRC is operating as if there are cost constraints despite that fact that millions, perhaps billions, will be available to administer grants, including to build the grant platform, itself.

There are very real cost constraints:

  1. The MGRC has no funds until the funding stream is activated.
  2. MGRC funds are not available all at once, they accumulate with every block (Just over 3k ZEC in November and just over 8k ZEC in December)

Both of those facts mean that the actual funds that MGRC has authority to allocate over the next few months is roughly 11k ZEC (~$600k USD)for the entire Zcash ecosystem. That pot will grow bigger, but there are actions that need to be taken now to ensure that grantees can apply and a process is in place to review then as soon as possible. Certainly one of my goals is to get to the point where we can distribute those funds to projects that will grow the ecosystem, rather than upfront invest in technologies that primarily exist to server the grant process itself.

To that end, there is already a grants system in place, with known costs that the Zcash Foundation has agreed to shoulder (see the most recent minutes), that system also has a maintenance path and room to expand/modify if and when that becomes necessary. This was ultimately one of the main reasons that decision was taken. It is not, however, a one-way door, it’s a solution that will work for the now, that can be revisited in the future.

I’m sure as the process develops there will be opportunity to expand the capabilities of the community/committee with Zcash-enabled technology.

4 Likes

I completely agree with @sarahjamielewis’s post and wanted to add a few thoughts. Note that my opinion should not be taken as representative of the entire MGRC.

I am hesitant to incorporate too much Zcash technology too early for a few reasons:

  1. Time cost to implement will impede getting grant funds out. Like Sarah mentioned, we will be using the Zcash Foundation’s platform for grants initially and may use a different platform in the future, but it’s too early to estimate when we will be able to consider using a different platform. Our time is better spent getting things up and running initially.

  2. Barrier of entry for those who can’t get Zcash legally/reliably/etc. Using shielded memos and other Zcash features requires obtaining Zcash which may be a barrier to some applicants (at least at the beginning of their grant).

  3. Barrier of entry for those who aren’t familiar with using things like shielded memos. I don’t see why we should create extra steps for those applying for grants when there are anonymizing software that doesn’t involve using cryptocurrency you have to acquire and spend.

I am all for dogfooding, and I would bet that some of the grants we give out will have components that encourage dogfooding, but at least for now using Zcash technology as an integral part of the grant proposal process would be inefficient.

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An update on this: on our call today, we decided in favor of written grant applications as opposed to video or Zoom interviews. We’re going to bolster this with reference checks and other more active approaches to learning more about the grantees and their track record if needed. We’ll also mitigate this risk of funding the wrong team by distributing funds gradually as projects hit their milestones.

This helps address a lot of potential biases, including potentially the one @jmsjsph mentions, a personal bias against an applicant, since an applicant who was worried about this could choose to remain anonymous.

At some point applicants will have to establish their identity to the Zcash Foundation due to US regulatory issues, but MGRC doesn’t really ever need to know their true identity if the applicant doesn’t want it to be known to the MGRC, I don’t think.

As for remaining anonymous through the application process, I think if an applicant wanted to do that, using an established anonymity tool such as Tor, a burner email address, and the existing grants portal could actually be just as anonymous—or more anonymous—than submitting via Zcash encrypted memo. And again they will have to reveal their identity to ZF in the end anyway.

We’re also going to work to make sure the grants portal is as integrated with the forums as possible, so that it’s easy for everyone to weigh in and help us gather information and context and feedback around each proposal. This forum/portal integration won’t be ready for the MGRC’s launch, so in the meantime we’ll encourage grantees to make forum posts.

I hope this helps!

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As an aspie I really applaud that decision. I think written application is much more inclusive and conductive to merit as opposed to emotion based review.

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Glad to hear you think so! FWIW, @sarahjamielewis deserves the credit for making this case and convincing the rest of us.

1 Like