Ibercivis is an international citizen science initiative, consisting of a volunteer computing platform and a series of experiments that allow society to participate in scientific research directly and in real time.
It is a pioneering initiative that seeks to involve the maximum number of citizens in volunteer computing, which leverages the two most powerful tools there today: the power of a computer and the human brain.
Ibercivis brings citizens closer to cutting-edge research and makes them share in the generation of scientific knowledge, while giving the scientific community a powerful calculation tool. The computer becomes a window to science, creating a channel for direct dialogue between researchers and society.
IIbercivis is born from the collaboration of different groups of researchers in various scientific and technological fields in order to create a new national science platform based on volunteer computing. Its main international benchmarks are the SETI@home and the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) or BOINC. In Spain, it has a clear predecessor in the project Zivis.
SETI is the acronym for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. There are numerous SETI projects, trying to find intelligent extraterrestrial life, either through analysis of electromagnetic signals captured in different telescopes or sending messages of different types into space in the hope that one of them is answered. One of the most famous projects is SETI@Home, established in 1999, which is being supported by thousands of people around the world by using their personal computers, which process the information captured by the radio telescope at Arecibo (Puerto Rico).
BOINC was originally created to address security problems of SETI@home, but was so well received that several distributed computing projects of a scientific nature (physics, nuclear medicine, climatology) were released under the same platform.
BOINC is a software platform developed under the philosophy of open source and available under the GNU LGPL licence. Currently it is considered a citizen supercomputer, which has about 485,000 active computers worldwide and through which more than 50 research projects are carried out, including projects belonging to the Ibercivis platform.
The Zivis project was developed in Zaragoza during the months of April and May 2007. Zivis sought a computing power that could potentially provide internationally competitive results in the simulation of fusion plasmas. This project, based on BOINC, was a huge success in terms of participation: they got a much higher number of assigned hours than expected, about 800,000, and involved nearly 3,000 netizens who provided 5,200 computers and 7,200 processors.
Zivis was a success both in science and in sociology. In the scientific field, the “virtual infrastructure” formed by citizens’ computers proved a powerful tool for calculations. And from a sociological point of view was that whoever had made their computer available to research developed a keen interest in what his team had done whilst their computer was idle. Citizens were interested in the underlying investigation and participated in online forums related to it. Many understood for the first time something about the physics of fusion.