Defining Smart Contract Defects on Ethereum

Jiachi Chen, Xin Xia, David Lo, John Grundy, Xiapu Luo, Ting Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Smart contracts are programs running on a blockchain. They are immutable to change, and hence can not be patched for bugs once deployed. Thus it is critical to ensure they are bug-free and well-designed before deployment. A Contract defect is an error, flaw or fault in a smart contract that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways. The detection of contract defects is a method to avoid potential bugs and improve the design of existing code. Since smart contracts contain numerous distinctive features, such as the gas system. decentralized, it is important to find smart contract specified defects. To fill this gap, we collected smart-contract-related posts from Ethereum StackExchange, as well as real-world smart contracts. We manually analyzed these posts and contracts; using them to define 20 kinds of contract defects. We categorized them into indicating potential security, availability, performance, maintainability and reusability problems. To validate if practitioners consider these contract as harmful, we created an online survey and received 138 responses from 32 different countries. Feedback showed these contract defects are harmful and removing them would improve the quality and robustness of smart contracts. We manually identified our defined contract defects in 587 real world smart contract and publicly released our dataset. Finally, we summarized 5 impacts caused by contract defects. These help developers better understand the symptoms of the defects and removal priority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-345
Number of pages19
JournalIEEE Transactions on Software Engineering
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • contract defects
  • Empirical study
  • ethereum
  • smart contracts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software


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