Research Scientist, Consensus Protocol

  • 1 applications

Ethereum Foundation

Remote


The Ethereum Foundation (EF) is a global non-profit organization dedicated to supporting Ethereum and related technologies.

Our mission is to do what is best for Ethereum’s long-term success.

Our role is to allocate resources to critical projects, to be a valued voice within the Ethereum ecosystem, and to advocate for Ethereum to the outside world.



Overview
The EF is looking to hire a consensus protocol expert for the Ethereum Research team.

There are two main facets to the role (however, for the right candidate, the role can be adapted to an appropriate combination of the two):


Improving the current protocol to strengthen its security properties.

This involves theoretical research, for example on the right way for an available chain and a finality gadget to interact (in our case, LMD-GHOST and Casper-FFG), but can also involve working closely with the Ethereum  and with implementers, depending on the candidate’s interest and skills.




Fundamental redesigns of the consensus protocol with a focus on simplicity.

This work is much like academic research: we expect to produce papers to share this research.

The objective is an eventual contribution to the Ethereum protocol to satisfy (and shape) the long-term goals.

For more details on the research problems, please refer to 

Research Goals
 section below.

You will be able to collaborate with leading academics in their fields through existing grants.

You will also have the opportunity to initiate new grants and thus shape research directions.

This is a great role for someone who is fascinated by the idea of contributing to the design and evolution of Ethereum’s consensus protocol.

The thought of unexplored distributed systems research with real-world impact should be exciting to you.



About You
You are fascinated by what is possible with the Ethereum protocol and love the values it represents.

Bonus points if you have notifications enabled for the  repo.

You have experience in analysis of consensus protocols (correctness, security, and performance) and are able to design secure constructions yourself.

Preferably, you have relevant past publications on permissionless BFT consensus protocols.

Bonus points if you have a PhD (or other formal training) in a relevant domain.

You’re independently minded and self-motivated.

You’re able to work without much oversight, going deep on a topic until you’ve built a sufficient understanding.

You’re a clear writer & communicator.

You’re able to share what you’ve learned with others, increasing the leverage of your work by striving to help others not only understand but even extend your work.

You care about the Ethereum ecosystem and are aligned with its long-term success.

You don’t want to take shortcuts today at the expense of the network’s security or decentralization properties tomorrow.



Contract Details
Preference to full-time candidates but are open to exploring options for the right person.

We’re flexible.

If you’re interested in this role but not sure about how it fits into your life (e.

g.

you are still in the process of finishing your PhD), apply anyway.

The Ethereum Research team offers a unique work environment:

-remote-first
: our team is distributed across the globe (with option of offices in e.

g.

Berlin or Boulder)

-flat hierarchy
: independence in day-to-day work

-optional travel throughout the year
: Ethereum conferences, research workshops, annual  event

-collaborations with academia & industry
: we maintain collaborations on high-impact projects with the industry and grant relationships with academia

-flexible PTO


How to Apply
Submit something you have done that highlights your facility with the above work.

This could be a link to published papers or a Github repo.

You may include a CV, link to a website, or reference any materials that you think might help but tangible outputs are prioritized.



Research Goals
The consensus protocol of Ethereum is one of the most ambitious consensus projects in existence because it tries to not compromise on any front.

This gives you the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research while having a huge impact in shaping the present and future of Ethereum.

One major goal is to have a consensus protocol which is capable of finalizing, but that is also dynamically available – not halting when participation is below a certain threshold unlike classical consensus protocols like PBFT, Tendermint etc.

This in itself is quite challenging (see , which first clearly specified the problem) because even a secure dynamically available protocol and a secure finalizing protocol can have worse security properties when combined.

 , the abstract protocol which Ethereum’s consensus is based on, attempts to do just this, but the combination of the LMD-GHOST available chain and of the finality gadget Casper-FFG has some short-comings (see  for an example).

Another goal for the protocol is to have very strong reorg-resilience properties, meaning that honest proposals are not reorganized out of the chain.

This is not generally emphasized in the consensus literature but is quite important in a real-world setting, especially in a  in which block proposals are very valuable.

This leads to strong incentives to attempt reorgs.

Therefore, dynamically available protocols such as longest chain are not necessarily well-suited to be used in Ethereum.

Gasper tries to have strong reorg-resistance properties by counting parallel votes to determine fork-choice weight, rather than just counting blocks.

This creates room for adversarial strategies that need to be mitigated (see  for an overview).

For similar reasons, a much desired future improvement to the protocol is to minimize the time to finality.

The research efforts in this direction are usually referred to as .

Finally, the Ethereum protocol aims to always support home validation, which means that the consensus protocol must allow for a very large validator set without increasing the hardware and bandwidth requirements beyond what’s reasonable for a home staker.

This has for example led to the adotion of BLS signatures to allow for aggregating votes.

Any alterations of the protocol must support home validation and a decentralized validator set.

For example, single-slot finality cannot come at the expense of greatly increased overhead.

If all requirements are to be met, the consensus protocol must maintain low overhead even with 1M+ participants, be strongly reorg-resilient under synchronous network conditions, remain dynamically available and be quickly accountably safe when participation is sufficiently high.

If this does not sound like a challenge to you, then please apply! If it does, and you are excited by the prospect of conducting novel and challenging research, apply just the same!