There’s been some talk in the news about a recently-published paper by two researchers at Cornell University (you can read more about that on our report here). Initially, leading Bitcoin scientist Gavin Andresen dismissed the report, but he’s now issued a statement on the Bitcoin Foundation website:
I’ve received a lot of requests for a response to an academic paper released a couple of days ago with the alarming title “Majority is not Enough: Bitcoin Mining Vulnerable.”
Let me start with how fantastic it is that we’re seeing more academic interest and research in Bitcoin-the-system. In the coming months, I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more research claiming to have found ways of making various pieces of Bitcoin better. Some of it will even turn out to be both practical and correct.
Bitcoin is a really big news story right now, and it is unfortunate (but entirely predictable) that the release of a not-yet-peer-reviewed paper generated so many sensationalistic headlines. Peer review works best when everybody involved is given time for conversation and debate without being contacted by reporters on deadline.
I’m not going to write about the specific claims in the paper; lots of smart people are, or soon will be, thinking really hard about the issues raised and whether or not the researcher’s model matches reality. However, it is good to note that in my initial review, I believe the paper’s assertion of a fundamental flaw is based on some over-simplified assumptions about how the bitcoin mining market works.
This response is not meant to discourage academic research. In fact, as a Foundation, we believe that the strength of the open source development process is bringing together lots of incredibly smart people to consider and resolve long-term issues like those raised by researchers. To that point, we are proud sponsors of International Financial Cryptography Association. During their 18th international conference, they will be hosting the first Bitcoin Technical Workshop.
We encourage researchers to submit papers and expect to see excellent work that will add immense value to the protocol and community.
There you have it, folks. The key words here are: peer review!