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A Platform for Volunteer Computing

Volunteer computing (VC) is the use of consumer digital devices, such as desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones, for high-throughput scientific computing. Device owners participate in VC by installing a program that downloads and executes jobs from servers operated by science projects. [1]

There are currently about 30 VC projects in many scientific areas and at institutions worldwide. Operating a typical VC project involves a few Linux server computers and a part-time system administrator, costing the research project on the order of $100K per year. The monetary cost of VC is divided between volunteers and scientists. Volunteers pay for buying and maintaining computing devices (ie. equipment already owned), for the electricity to power these devices, and for Internet connectivity. Research projects pay for server costs and for the system administrators, programmers and web developers needed to operate the VC project.


Most VC projects use BOINC, an open-source, distributed under the open-source LGPL v3 license, middleware system for VC for working with the volunteer computing resources.

BOINC lets scientists create and operate VC projects, and lets volunteers participate in these projects. Volunteers install an application (the BOINC client) and then choose one or more projects to support. The client is available for desktop platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux) and for mobile devices running Android. BOINC is designed to compute invisibly to the volunteer. It runs jobs at the lowest process priority and limits their total memory footprint to prevent excessive paging. On mobile devices it runs jobs only when the device is plugged in and fully charged, and it communicates only over WiFi.

BOINC is intended to be usable for computer owners with little technical knowledge – people who may have never installed an application on a computer. Such people often have questions or require help. We’ve crowd-sourced technical support by creating systems where experienced volunteers can answer questions and solve problems for beginners. Many issues are handled via message boards on the BOINC web site. However, these are generally in English and don’t support real-time interaction. To address these problems we created a system, based on Internet telephony, that connects beginners with questions to helpers who speak the same language and know about their type of computer. They can then interact via voice or chat.

BOINC volunteers are international – most countries are represented. All of the text in the BOINC interface – both client GUIs and web site – is translatable, and we crowd-source the translation. Currently 26 languages are supported.

BOINC Credits

BOINC grants credit – an estimate of FLOPs performed - for completed jobs. The total and exponentially-weighted recent average credit is maintained for each computer, volunteer, and team. Credit serves several purposes: it provides a measure of progress for individual volunteers; it is the basis of competition between volunteers and teams; it provides a measure of computational throughput for projects and for BOINC as a whole; and it can serve as proof-of-work for virtual currency systems.

LibreOffice Teams

LibO Crunchers a team for LibreOffice boosters was started by a community member. Currently the team is registered at:

Project Home page LibO Crunchers team page
Climate Prediction dot net Oxford University eResearch Center
Number Fields Project University of Arizona, Mathematics Dept
Rosetta University of Wisconsin, Institute For Protein Design
World Community Grid IBM, Multiple research projects

Latest team stats from

Libocrunchers boincStats.png

[1] BOINC: A Platform for Volunteer Computing by David P. Anderson (Cornell Univ.)