From Screensavers to Saving the World Through Citizen Science: World Community Grid


Idleness never looked more productive. Here’s a citizen science project that quite literally requires zero energy from you in order to participate!

The World Community Grid is a global project that harnesses energy from idle computers to contribute to scientific research. When your computer goes idle, instead of changing to a screensaver featuring swimming fish, slideshows of your favorite animals, or free-floating geometric designs, your computer can request data for a specific project on the World Community Grid server. The Grid uses technology developed by UC Berkeley (BOINC) in order to collect and pool valuable research data. Each computation provides scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of research.

Grid computing” technology joins together remote individual computers, creating a large system with massive computational power that surpasses that of many supercomputers. Because the work is split into small pieces, research time is reduced from years to months. Not only is this more time efficient, but it’s also more cost effective.

One of their first projects, Human Proteome Folding, identified the proteins produced by human genes. With this information, scientists discovered how defects in proteins can cause disease, making it easier to find cures. In 2003, with grid computing, in less than three months, scientists identified 44 potential treatments to fight the deadly smallpox disease. Without the grid, the work would have taken more than one year to complete. Current projects include Computing for Sustainable Water, GO Fight Against Malaria, and Discovering Dengue Drugs Together.

Donate your idle computer time to a greater good in scientific research by registering for the World Community Grid and downloading their free and secure software to get started!

From screensavers to saving the world through scientific research. Get started now!

Categories: Chemistry

About the Author


Lily Bui

Although she holds dual non-science bachelors’ degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine, Lily has long harbored a proclivity for the sciences. A daughter of an engineer and an accountant who also happen to be a photographer and musician, respectively, Lily grew up on the nexus between science and art. Lily has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served a year in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter in California; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works with WGBH-TV Boston and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns (mostly to entertain herself). // Tweets @dangerbui