To get a better understanding of cryptocurrencies, U.S. National Science Foundation awarded a 3-year grant to six American scientists representing three universities.

According to the abstract of the project, “Crypto-currencies and smart contracts… will shape the future of money and financial transactions.” They represent a growing market and promise great returns. “Unfortunately, usage of crypto-currencies outstrips our understanding.” To address this issue, the U. S. National Science Foundation decided to award a 3-year grant worth $3 million.

The project will be entrusted to six researchers from the Cornell University, the University of Maryland and the University of California Berkeley, experts in programming, cryptography, game theory and security. Its aim is, says the abstract, “to establish a rigorous scientific foundation for crypto-currencies”. The project is estimated to end in June 2018.

The academics will address “pain points” of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and try to develop new systems that would work better than those already in place. They plan to put a special emphasis on smart contracts. According to Elaine Shi, the head of the project, “it is extremely easy to make mistakes programming smart contracts”. She believes that a thorough investigation can lower the related risks.

It is not the first grant awarded by the National Science Foundation to perform bitcoin analysis. In 2014, the Foundation funded a $500,000 project titled “Addressing the challenges of cryptocurrencies: Security, anonymity, stability”. The name of another project, started in February 2015, is “Private Digital Currencies and Closed Payment Communities: Law, Regulation and Financial Exclusion After Bitcoin”.