Suggestion: ZOMG Funding Research

In just a couple months, we’ve seen a wide variety of ZOMG funds being deployed to applications in the Zcash ecosystem, all towards strengthening the Zcash offering to the world.

ZOMG website reads “ZOMG (Zcash Open Major Grants) exists to fund projects that advance the usability, security, privacy, and adoption of Zcash, a privacy-focused cryptocurrency”.

One more way to advance Zcash would be to fund research to establish a reputation for tackling difficult research questions, increase research around applied cryptography and building a strong foundation for Zcash Improvement Proposals by increasing participation to validate and improve the implementation of ZIPs beyond the primary ECC/ZF staff.

This endeavor would require @ZOMG buy in and connections to top academia at universities & research groups who are working on the bleeding edge of cryptography. A chief scientist would be required, maybe someone from ECC/ZF (maybe @chelseakomlo ) to evaluate research groups(with proven track record) for ZOMG to approve yearly funding?

Research Group constituents:

  • Senior Research Fellows
    • Established international reputation as a leader in a certain area of interest.
    • Extensive publication record that includes top venues in their area of expertise.
    • Experience in mentoring.
  • Research Fellows
    • Ph.D. holder in area of interest.
    • Good publication record.
  • Researchers
    • Holder of an M.Sc. or equivalent.
    • Works under the supervision of an Research Fellow or Senior Research Fellow

Areas of interest for Research Fellows:
Cryptography
Software Engineering
Distributed Systems
Human-Computer Interaction
Networks
Formal Verification
Trusted Hardware
Economics
Policy and Regulation regarding securities/foreign exchange/businesses/tax laws

Hoping this starts a discussion to put ZIP-1014 funds to good use as when we look back from 2024, it would be good to have generated real world research with the 8% block rewards.

UPDATE: Wording from individual fellows to research groups.

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Hey @secparam, would you have any candidates to refer or provide feedback on the idea to fund research fellows via ZOMG?

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Another place to look to may be the Decentralized Systems Lab @ The U of Illinois. & @amiller may have some thoughts on this topic?

https://decentralize.ece.illinois.edu/

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My two cents:
Don’t do fellowships, fund research groups with a proven track record. And make it a repeated funding affair. And avoid just handing it to elite schools.

The problem with fellowships is awarding it either 1) goes on meaningless things like grades or what school you’ve gone to or worse 2) on we’ve heard of one or two papers the person has done. All too frequently, cryptocurrency papers are a hype game where, e.g., the paper you heard of got all the credit for work that was mostly done by a bunch of people before it. And the people you didn’t hear of are the people you want to fund. And if you fund the people you did hear of, you’re just funding people who play the hype game.

And fellowships are not usually an ongoing relationship. You take the money, and in the case of something like ZOMG where they don’t hire researchers or have a bunch influence at places that do, there’s no incentive to do what ZOMG might want. On going funding relationships have a feedback mechanism.

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Agree :100: with the incentives not being aligned for research fellows at an individual basis.

How does a “research group” look like? How does funding to a research group work? What is the end deliverable from them? And how do we define as the requirements or topics of research OR do we just keep it open ended for research groups to apply for furthering the Zcash ecosystem like the recent Arti grant Arti: A pure-Rust Tor Implementation for Zcash and beyond

I’d issue a set of topics you are broadly interested in, let people apply with short proposals, then continue to fund the group as long as they do work you all think helped. The group may end up doing nothing that relates to the proposal, who cares. As long as you think what they do is good, keep funding them. Intentionally plan on many of the grants not giving too useful stuff, but getting strong signals on who you continue to fund.

ZOMG should worry about results, not wasting money as long as its handed out reasonably.

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Thank You for your feedback @secparam
I have updated the wording to cater towards research groups.

Ok, seems like i have more than 2 cents on this. Just to add. The general unit of work for academia at least is “one graduate student” over say 6 months or a year. Generally the fully loaded cost of a grad student is 80 to 100k. (they aren’t paid that, but universities charge overhead, tuition, and fringe benefits. Though all of this varies with what kind of money being used. Grants vs donations/gifts). This is cheap compared to what a year of a researchers time costs in industry.

So based on a 1 or 2 page proposal, hand out money that will pay for one grad student for a year/6 months and see what happens. You won’t have papers complete in 6 month, but you will have some idea whats going on. Keep funding the labs that work out.

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I think this is a good idea.

My sense is that a lot of the things we want to achieve with ZOMG are outside the reach of typical teams that build user-facing tech and require, say, an academic cryptography background.

Funding academic research could be a great way to do bring more highly specialized people into the picture.

I think having a pool of talent like this would also make the folks working on user-facing features (and ZOMG itself in its work) less dependent on the experts at ECC and ZF, which is good for decentralization and removing ECC and ZF as bottlenecks.

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