SCRF Impact Award

The Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF)’s monthly $1000 Impact Award honors a researcher or team whose work represents exceptional achievement, particularly in an underappreciated or novel area of blockchain research.

SCRF is an international, multidisciplinary group of researchers, industry leaders, developers, and academics dedicated to providing thoughtful peer review and sharing research. As part of these efforts, each week SCRF releases a curated digest of research abstracts selected for both their importance to the blockchain community and technical merit called Research Pulse.

The Impact Award is selected from the previous round of Research Pulse posts. For a list of winners, please see below.


June 2021 Impact Award Winners:

Massimo Bartoletti (@bart) is an associate professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of Cagliari.

Roberto Zunino (@zunino) is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Trento where he focuses on formal techniques for cryptographic protocol analysis and with an emphasis on blockchain systems.

They have been awarded the inaugural SCRF Impact Award for their work on BitML: A Calculus for Bitcoin Smart Contracts:

Bitcoin smart contracts have historically been intentionally restricted to a small set of use cases, as its community prioritizes security and efficiency over expressiveness and feature completeness. BitML is a novel, domain-specific language for writing smart contracts which could bring greater flexibility to Bitcoin smart contracts. Its design is intended to enable the implementation of Turing-complete programs atop Bitcoin, with minimal changes to its core protocol.

You can also learn more about this work in the AMA that was done with the BitML team and SCRF’s Lead Contributing Researcher, Lucas Nuzzi (@cipherix).


July 2021 Impact Award Winners:

SCRF is pleased to announce the next recipients of the SCRF Impact Award: Ariel Gabizon and Zachary Williamson, the creators of Plonk: Permutations over Lagrange-bases for Oecumenical Noninteractive arguments of Knowledge

Cryptoassets employ an amalgamation of technologies, both established and novel. The technology of zkSNARKs perhaps sits at the intersection of novel and established. While Zero-Knowledge systems have been pursued by cryptographers for decades, the majority of innovations in this field at this point is happening in the context of cryptoassets. SNARKs are particularly promising, as they can be used to enhance the privacy, scalability and composability of cryptoassets and their applications.

Over the past year, there has been an interesting convergence of SNARKs used for applications. Plonk is now the predominant building block for cryptoasset applications and the primary system powering zkRollups. We have been following this trend closely, and wrote an extensive summary on Plonk, discussed how it compares with alternative approaches, hosted a panel conversation on this area at the Smart Contract Summit and a one-one-one chat with Ariel in our channel. This has resulted in incredibly rich conversations over the future of cryptoassets and we are excited to see the SNARKs space continue to evolve.

We would like to congratulate Ariel Gabizon and Zachary Williamson for their contributions to the field of SNARKs. The authors have decided to donate their award to PETA, an animal rights organization.


congrats on the award and kudos on gifting the funds :raised_hands:


SCRF Third Impact Award Winners:

Kushal Babel, Phil Daian, and Mahimna Kelkar’s Clockwork Finance sparked intense discussion in the DeFi community by introducing a framework to formally verify the economic security properties of Decentralized Finance (DeFi) applications. The mechanism design of DeFi applications is an area of particular interest at SCRF and we consider the application of formal methods proposed in Clockwork Finance to be a crucial step forward for the industry. In recognition of their achievement, we are honored to announce that the winners of SCRF’s Third Impact Award are the authors of Clockwork Finance.

Kushal Babel is a Ph.D. student at Cornell University who researches symbolic models for security protocol verification in the context of decentralized systems. Phil Daian is one of the industry’s leading researchers on the topic of Miner Extractable Value (MEV) and one of the authors of Flashbots 2.0, the seminal paper on MEV. Mahimna Kelkar is also a Ph.D. student at Cornell. His work examines theoretical and applied cryptography with an emphasis on blockchains. Their work was supervised by Ari Juels, Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech and the Technion, and one of the leading industry researchers on the intersection of computer security, cryptography, and privacy.

We thank them for their efforts and look forward to following the proliferation of formal methods in DeFi.