CERN, UNITAR and Geneva University support the European Year of Volunteering with citizen cyberscience8 August 2011, Geneva, Switzerland - Researchers at CERN have begun today public testing of a new version of the popular volunteer computing project LHC@home. This version allows volunteers to participate for the first time in simulating high-energy collisions of protons in CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), thus actively help physicists in the search for new fundamental particles. This is one example of a series of projects and events organized by the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, a partnership between CERN, UNITAR/UNOSAT and the University of Geneva, to promote volunteer-based science.

Other projects the Citizen Cyberscience Centre has initiated focus on promoting volunteer science in developing countries and for humanitarian purposes. For example, in collaboration with IBM’s philanthropic World Community Grid and Tsinghua University in Beijing, the Citizen Cyberscience Centre launched the Computing for Clean Water project. The project uses the supercomputer-like strength of World Community Grid to enable scientists to design efficient low-cost water filters for clean water. In a separate project supported by HP, volunteers can help UNOSAT, the operational satellite applications programme of UNITAR, to improve damage assessment in developing regions affected by natural or man-made disasters.

Thanks to support from the South-African-based Shuttleworth Foundation, a founding sponsor of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, lectures and hands-on training events have been organized this year in Beijing, Taipei, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Mauritius, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. This is helping to spread know-how about citizen cyberscience more widely in developing regions, and generate new projects there.

As Sergio Bertolucci, Director of Research and Scientific Computing at CERN, emphasizes: while LHC@home is a great opportunity to encourage more public involvement in science, the biggest benefits of citizen cyberscience are for researchers in developing regions who have limited resources for computing and manpower. Online volunteers can boost available research resources enormously at very low cost. This is a trend we are committed to promote through the Citizen Cyberscience Centre”.

From a development and humanitarian perspective, the potential of citizen-powered research is enormous”, says Francesco Pisano, Manager of UNOSAT, “ Participating in the Citizen Cyberscience Centre enables us to get new insights into the cutting edge of crowdsourcing technologies. There is no doubt that volunteers are playing an increasingly central role in dealing with crisis response, thanks to the Internet.”

Citizen cyberscience is a grass-roots movement which challenges the assumption that only professionals can do science”, says Pierre Spierer, Vice-Rector for Research of the University of Geneva. “Given the right tools and incentives, and some online training, millions of enthusiastic volunteers can make a real difference, contributing to significant scientific discoveries.”

CEO of the Shuttleworth Foundation, Helen Turvey, concurs: “It’s time to put open science squarely on the agenda not just in Europe, but also in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Openness about publicly funded research benefits scientists and citizens alike. And there’s no greater openness than when researchers invite citizen volunteers to be an active part of the scientific process. We’re excited to see the ways in which the Citizen Cyberscience Centre is pushing the social and technological envelope in this space”.

For further information see: www.citizencyberscience.net  

For more information about LHC@Home 2.0, see www.cern.ch/LHCathome/Physics