Study - Motivations of cybervolunteers
in an applied distributed computing environment
10 February 2010
© Published in Firstmonday.org, a peer-reviewed journal on the Internet
From 2005 to 2008, ICVolunteers actively participated in Africa@home, a project that helped the Swiss Tropical Institute (STI) harness sufficient computing power to run its malaria modeling program. Volunteer computing is one of the solutions to respond to the needs of research labs that may not have the necessary computing power to run complex simulation models solely with in-house computing resources.
One form of volunteer computing uses an interface called the BOINC software platform that allows hundreds of thousands of volunteers worldwide to participate in projects such as SETI@home and MalariaControl.net, searching for extraterrestrial intelligence or contributing to research linked to malaria control. These volunteers are effectively acting as cybervolunteers, meaning volunteers who use in part or entirely a computer or the Internet for their volunteer activity.
A recent study, published in Fristmonday.org looks at the motivations of MalariaControl.net and BOINC cybervolunteers. Are volunteers only donating CPU power or are they making other contributions? Why do they participate in projects such as MalariaControl.net? The aim of this paper is to present results obtained, formulate useful conclusions from them and identify patters in the motivations of volunteers that may be useful to other distributed computing projects, in particular, and the understanding of cybervolunteerism, in general.
Volunteers living in 67 countries participated in our inquiry. We found that a majority of them indicated either solidarity and/or a cause as their main deciding factor for getting involved. This trend was stronger for MalariaControl.net than for general BOINC volunteers. Volunteers remained involved if they felt useful. The study clearly suggests that the recognition of cybervolunteers is important: volunteers invest their time in a project without financial compensation, but not for free. The paper also summarizes technical and communication suggestions made by volunteers with regards to MalariaControl.net and BOINC.
More: Read the full article
Posted: 2010-2-10 Updated: 2010-8-27