Costello College of Business finance professor receives coveted NSF early-career award


Jiasun Li, a recently promoted associate professor of finance at the Costello College of Business at George Mason University, has received a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Jiasun Li, associate professor of finance
Jiasun Li

According to the NSF website, the CAREER award is given to “early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.”

The award totals $711,679 over five years. It will support Li’s ongoing research into the organization of digital services with the rise of emerging technologies.

This project jumps off from recent developments in cloud and decentralized computing. Both technologies present radical new possibilities for off-premise digital services, as evidenced by the rise of numerous cloud service providers as well as blockchain platforms. 

However, the presence of strategic incentives may undermine the smooth and reliable functioning of such systems. For example, cloud providers may opt to short-charge clients when it comes to the provision of services, if it is in their best interests to do so. Alternatively, strategic actors may also disrupt the consensus protocols governing decentralized systems.

Li proposes to tackle these problems in an interdisciplinary manner, blending tools from computer science (as the topic is inherently about digital services) and economics (since incentive analysis traditionally falls in the domain of economics). He has finely honed this approach in a series of papers applying analytical models based on economic principles to decentralized systems such as blockchain proof-of-work technologies.

The ultimate goal of Li’s project, as stated in his NSF proposal, is to “guide the efficient organization of digital services for productivity gains, and thus enhance the economic competitiveness of the United States.”

Previously, Li received individual and collaborative grants from Mason’s Multidisciplinary Research Initiative, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Ethereum Foundation, among others. He was recently named an inaugural Faculty Fellow of Mason’s Institute for Digital Innovation (IDIA).

“I am extremely honored to receive an NSF CAREER Award because such grants are traditionally rare in business schools," said Li. "I really appreciate the trust NSF bestowed on me. This recognition is only possible thanks to the tremendous support and many forward-looking initiatives from Mason and the Costello College of Business, as well as many colleagues across different disciplines who have inspired, guided, and elevated me over the years. I look forward to carrying out the interdisciplinary research projects under the continued support from NSF and the University/Costello College of Business.”

Ajay Vinzé, dean of the Costello College of Business, said, This prestigious award from NSF is a fitting recognition of Jiasun’s superb/impactful research record and a proud moment for Costello College of Business--Congratulations Jiasun! As the evolution of the digital economy plays out, research like Jiasun’s project is going to provide relevant and actionable insights. I look forward with great excitement to contributions that are forthcoming.