Intro to Science United for BOINC users

How to use Science United

If you're already running BOINC on a computer, you can use Science United as follows:

That's it. Consider detaching from the projects you were previously running.

What is Science United?

Science United (SU) is a new way for computer owners to participate in BOINC-based volunteer computing. SU doesn't replace the old way of doing things, where you people attach to specific projects; rather, it provides an alternative where you choose science areas, and SU picks the projects for you.

SU is designed for people who are not technical, who don't want to spend much time on BOINC (e.g., fiddling with settings or browsing project web sites), and who are motivated primarily by science goals.

The computing power of SU participants is divided among a set of vetted projects. Eventually, the choice of projects and the allocation policy will be made by an independent committee. For now, all science projects vetted by BOINC are included, with equal allocation shares.

Science areas, not projects

When you participate in SU, you sign up for science areas, not projects. You can choose the areas and sub-areas you want to support, and the ones you don't. Similarly for the location of the research.

SU is implemented as an "account manager", like BAM! and GridRepublic. When you attach a computer to SU, it tells your computer what projects to run, based on your preferences and other factors. These may change over time, even from day to day. You may end up running a project that didn't exist when you first signed up. You don't have to browse and evaluate projects; in effect, SU does that for you.

Equally importantly, it means that a new project, if vetted by SU, can be assured of a certain amount of computing power, without doing any publicity or even developing a web site. The need to do these things, and the risk of investing in BOINC, have been major barriers to entry for scientists who might otherwise use BOINC. The hope is that SU will lead to the creation of many more projects.

User-friendliness

In my conversations with "average" computer owners (e.g. friends and family) about the BOINC user interface, several themes emerge:

SU tries to remedy these problems. In looking at the SU site, there are few things that you might notice:

SU's target user wants to install the software in a couple of minutes, set it, and forget it. They may or may not ever return to the SU web site.

By default, SU sends users a weekly "status" email whose purpose is to make the user feel good about their contribution, and to alert them if any of their computers have stopped doing work.

Feedback

Give feedback (bugs, questions, feature requests) on the SU message boards. You can also email me (David Anderson) directly. Remember that the target audience of SU is not you; we're not going to add "power user" features to SU. Pretend you're interested in science but know little about computers. Would you understand the overall idea? Would you be able to follow the instructions? Would you follow through to the end?

More information

Two more detailed documents are available:

Coordinated Volunteer Computing describes why Science United is needed.

Science United: Implementation explains how things work under the hood.




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