Oded Goldreich

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Requests

This webpage is NOT intended for Weizmann students, postdocs and/or faculty members. My duties towards them are definitely incomparable to my duties towards the community at large. In particular, I will be happy to answer any question or request they may have, regardless if it is on the following list or not.

This webpage is also NOT intended to discourage requests that are not explicitly mentioned in it. As you will see, I do not shy to list the type of requests that I will refuse, so please don't assume that I'll refuse an unlisted type of request.

Preface: It is great to live in an era that allows rapid and convenient communication. Yet, also good things have dark sides: The amount of communication grows, and consequently the total time spent in communication may grow rather than decrease. In particular, at times I get more questions and requests than I can possibly handle, especially if I am to continue doing other things. Since some of the questions and requests keep recurring, I am posting my answers below.

This page includes frequently asked questions and requests regarding

About Graduate Studies at the Weizmann Institute (FGS/WIS)

All graduate studies at the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) are administrated by the Feinberg Graduate School (FGS). Applications should be made using the school's forms which can be obtained together with more detailed information from the FGS homepage. You may also contact the school via e-mail (nfinfo@weizmann.ac.il) or by ordinary mail to the Feinberg Graduate School, P.O.B 26, Rehovot, Israel.

Following are my view regarding certain questions.

About PostDoc-ing at the Weizmann Institute (FGS/WIS)

Postdocs at the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS) are administrated by the Feinberg Graduate School (FGS). Applicants are expected to contact a potential host, but the host is not the one deciding on the application; all decisions (including funding) are determined at the faculty level. Details regarding the application and selection procedures can be found at the relevant webpage of FGS.

Some of the comments made above regarding entering a student-adviser relationship and being my student apply also to postdocs, but indeed to a lesser extent.

Applying for a faculty position at the Weizmann Institute

The best scientists at Weizmann are not necessarily better than the best scientists in other universities in Israel, but the typical scientists at Weizmann are better than the typical scientists at other places. [Haim Harari, former president of Weizmann, 1988-2001]

In the early 1990s, the Weizmann Institute decided to revise its hiring policies so to minimize the chances of not granting tenure to scientists. Accordingly, the hiring process was transformed to being more critical, and includes the solicitation of half a dozen external evaluations of the candidate and careful deliberation in four different faculty and institutional bodies.

Since our hiring process involves more steps and takes more time, it is advised to apply to us a couple of months prior to applying to other universities in Israel. This is particularly the case, since several universities have a (vicious) practice of making offers with a quite short expiration time, whereas Weizmann does not put pressure on the scientists it wishes to hire. To be concrete, interested candidates are encouraged to apply by September 1st, although applications will be considered on a continuing basis.

I am happy to be a faculty at Weizmann, and would not trade my position here for any position anywhere in the world. [Oded, anytime since 1994...]

About My Areas of Past and Present Expertise

My past areas of expertise are Randomness and Computation, Foundations of Cryptography, and Complexity Theory, but for more than a decade I have not been following research in the Foundations of Cryptography and hence can no longer be considered an expert in that field.

The fact that I have expertise in some areas does not mean that I can afford to answer typical questions and requests that are referred to me regarding these areas. In particular, I cannot afford to offer research problems, and typically (see exception clause below) cannot afford to evaluate new work or answer various questions about existing work (including my own). Details follow.

Exception clause: If you are sure that your question or request does not fall within the above categories (i.e., that is does justify asking specifically for my help), then start your email by articulating the reasons for your belief. (A generic reason like my being an expert in the general area does not suffice.) Indeed, there are very few cases in which such a reason may exist. For example, if you have fundamental doubts regarding a central claim in anything that I have published (e.g., you believe there is an error), then it should be my duty to consider this seriously. Same if you have resolved an open problem mentioned explicitly or implicitly in any of my works (but not a famous open problem like P versus NP). Finally, if you find any (fixable) error in any of my books (or papers), please call my attention to it. Note that this last case actually refers to a service you offer me, whereas in the other cases this may be help you seek from me.

About My Areas of Non-Expertise (e.g., Applied Cryptography)

I believe that sound practice of Cryptography has to be based on firm theoretical foundations. Still, this necessary condition is not sufficient, and expertise in applied (or practical) aspects of cryptography requires more than understanding of the theoretical foundations of Cryptography. For example, although I considered myself (in the past) an expert on the theoretical foundations of Cryptography, I never had more than very little knowledge of the applied (or practical) aspects of cryptography. In particular, please do not ask me to evaluate the security of any specific construct.

About Consulting

My above statement of limited knowledge of the applied (or practical) aspects of cryptography means that I'm not the right person to ask for consulting regarding the latter aspect. On top of this, I am not interested at all in consulting to or being involved in any commercial enterprise. My main reason is my unwillingness to make any commitment to spend time on anything other than my research and personal interests. Unfortunately, for lack of time, I properly pursue only a tiny part of my research and personal interests, and I have no intentions of making this part even smaller.

Asking for general advice

I cannot possibly provide personal advice (e.g., regarding studying cryptography) to anybody who may seek it. Giving such advice requires learning the person and his/her specific needs, which I really cannot afford. Whatever general (or generic) advice I can give, can be found in my web-pages (starting from my homepage).

Regarding review requests

Being an editor of a few journals, I do sympathize with the effort of editors seeking adequate referees for submitted papers. However, being overloaded by referee requests, it is my policy to decline any request that does not require my specific expertise and can be handled as easily by dozens of other researchers. (Even under this policy, I'm handling a lot of review requests...) Needless to say, I will definitely decline referee requests that refer to works that do not lie in the core of my research expertise (see above). But what I am saying here is that I may decline even requests that refer to this core.

Using web-servers for review: Due both to practical and principled reasons, I will refuse to use web-servers for submitting reviews and/or recommendation letters.

Again, this webpage is also NOT intended to discourage requests that are not explicitly mentioned in it. As you can see, I do not shy to list the type of requests that I will refuse, so please don't assume that I'll refuse an unlisted type of request.

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