We invite you to know IBERCIVIS, the platform of citizen computation that promotes a new form to understand and to do science with the citizen as a promoter. The idea is very simple: “the Science is of all of us and now you can be active part of it. You only need to have a computer connected to internet and join in IBERCIVIS. When your computer is in standby can realise calculations for leading investigations developed in public centres and will send the results so that the scientific community analyse them.

It is a pioneering initiative in Spain that pretends to join together the maximum possible number of citizens in voluntary computation, to takes advantage of the capacity of calculation of a computer in the moments in which it is in standby to realise derivative tasks of a research project. In this way, the computer turns into an open window to the science, creating a channel for the direct dialogue between researchers and society.

We spoke with Elisa Cauhé Martín, BIFI’s researcher:


R: IBERCIVIS Is a project of voluntary computation where the citizens can collaborate with science yielding the their computers so that they realise small scientific calculations. That is to say, the users of Internet loan their computer when the sreen saver is on to take advantage of their capacity in international research projects.

Nowadays IBERCIVIS has almost 30.000 users since it was launching in 2008, of which a daily average of 3.000 users yield their power of calculation to researchers, what supposes a powerful computational tool.

P: Why it is pioneering research project in Latin America?

R: The geographic scope, in IBERCIVIS participate research groups from Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Mexico and next we expect to have Cuba and Brazil.

P: How does this idea arise?

R: IBERCIVIS was born from Zivis, an initiative of the Institute of Biocomputation and Physics of Complex Systems, the City Council of Saragossa and the National Laboratory of Fusion of the CIEMAT.

The aim was to create a platform of computation to give service to the researchers of the city of Saragossa. For this was supported by the municipal plan of 2004 for the Development of the Society of Knowledge which pretended to situate the city of Saragossa in 2010 in an important European place like city with big economic development based in the new technologies of information and in the management of the knowledge.

The project Zivis was sponsored by the City council of Saragossa, Telefónica, Endesa, Ibercaja, the Foundation Saragossa City of the Knowledge and the University of Saragossa. After this we extended this initiative on a national scale, for what requested the participation of other entities. The answer was highly satisfactory, and on June 2008, IBERCIVIS was presented in the Headquarters of the CSIC in Madrid.

P: Which purpose the project pursues to achieve?

R: IBERCIVIS, on one hand, pretends to serve to the researchers power of calculation and, on other hand, pretends to establish a bond between the science and the society. Realising small works of scientific research in the computers of the citizens is waking up their interest for science which converts IBERCIVIS in a tool of scientific dissemination.

P: Who constitutes IBERCIVIS and how do they work in network?

R: IBERCIVIS is formed mainly by three actors:

  • The team of development, administration of systems, management and communication, that works in the BIFI as in centres that collaborate in the project like CSIC, CIEMAT, RedIRIS and I2basque and in Portugal , LIP, CNC FCCN and Ciência Activa.
  • The research groups to which belong the scientific applications that are launch by IBERCIVIS. These belong to different Universities or centres of research.
  • The citizens, that in addition to contributing with calculation power, participate in the activities that realise and some of them establish contact to report errors, doubts or suggestions.

Each one of these integral actors of the project has their very clear-cut paper and the work in network facilitates the communication between the different centres and parts of the project.

P: You speak always of citizen science, what does it means for you and how it integrates in the way to understand and build IBERCIVIS?

R: Citizen science is the science that helps citizens achieving their results. We want to go further, because Internet allows interactiveness with the citizen, we are starting to develop a platform where scientific applications allows citizens not only to contribute with capacity of calculation but they can value, study, investigate, catalog, understand questions that are proposed.

P: What is exactly the map of users?

R: It is the map that shows the users and the entities that participate in the project IBERCIVIS. Also shows how the works are sent and received in real time.

When a citizen registers in IBERCIVIS, by indicating optionally the country and postal code, it apperas on the map in blue . If they do not facilitate us this data, they are situated randomly around the Iberian peninsula in orange .

P: Who and how to participate in IBERCIVIS?

R: IBERCIVIS is headed to all the society, young people and adults, any citizen can participate. Only there are two requirements: a computer and connection to Internet.

To join to the project is very easy, simply is necessary to register in www.ibercivis.es in “Join you to Ibercivis”. Then download a small program called BOINC that installs in the computer and it is the attendant to request the works. Afterwards the user can configure it.

P: Which kind of projects are carried out from iberoamericanos countries ?

R: The application Cuanticables is a research of the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina that realises simulations of quantum wires. The application Criticalidad of the University of Populate New in Mexico, studies the electronic transport in disordered systems with fractal properties and soon we expect to include two new applications from Brazil and Cuba.

In all these countries we also did dissemination of the project. In Argentina was presented officially in April 2010. In Cuba it was presented in a congress in March 2011. In Brazil is foreseen to do a launching of an application and its official incorporation to the project, no only as a research centre but as a collaborator centre.

The appropriate applications to be executed in IBERCIVIS are those applications related with the science that gather the following characteristic :

  • Scientific and technological interest
  • Runs segmentables in short periods, on 30-60 minutes each one.
  • Use of inferior RAM to 500 Mbtyes
  • Invalid parallelism
  • Input/output low for each job (of the order 1 Mbyte maximum) for do not saturate commercial bandwidth
  • No need for licences
  • Need to execute in the order of million jobs.

The team of development of IBERCIVIS will analyse the projects that are proposed. Those that fulfil the requirements, will be approved and will collaborate with the researcher group to realise the necessary changes in the code so that it can be executed in the architecture of IBERCIVIS.

P: In addition to promoting this model of open research and innovation in research groups, IBERCIVIS studies itself through the project IBERNET, in what consists is initiative?

R: This study was launched in the summer of 2010 as a contest experience that unfortunatly did not have the necessary success to be able to arrive to an end. The idea was to study the relations between users of IBERCIVIS and how do they invited other users to join the project.

P: How do you evaluate the social impact of your project as a open innovation research?

R: For us it is useful to measure the number of users that incorporats to the project daily and the quantity of hours of CPU contributed, differentiating also the quantity of hours that allocate to each application.

What is difficult to measure is the impact of the dissemination in society, since it can happen that people join the project without interest or that they are interested in the project, but afterwards do not download IBERCIVIS to collaborate from home.

Also the follow-up that do the users in Facebook and Twitter allows us to know the interest that arises our research, although they are always approximate data.

P: If we situate the citizen in the centre of the advance of the science and the generation of scientific knowledge, working from their active participation, Internet is a big ally.

R: In effect, Internet approach us to the citizen. The dissemination of the project is realised through the web site of IBERCIVIS: www.ibercivis.es, which is translated also to Portuguese (www.ibercivis.pt) and to English (www.ibercivis.net) by means of digital contents like videos, forums, zone download, monthly interviews, generation of news, etc. In these forums we give the possibility to the user to interact directly with the researcher.

In addition to the on-line dissemination also we go on doing talks, visits of schools, etc.

P: In this sense, which rol play the Social Networks to improve the communication and socialisation of the project?

R: We have profile in Facebook, Twitter and Tuenti for the youngest. In these spaces we put news, photos of events, publish the bulletins, but also treat subjects of general scientific interest. In general it is a good tool to know the publics, although we still have a lot for doing.

P: Which lessons learnt and what do the future brings?

R: The society is interested in science, but it is necessary to work in the language of researchers and society, it hasto be the same. The users do the effort to know the scientific advances and the researchers have to do the effort to give to know in what they work.

P: From the OVTT we are developing SocialOVTT, a pilot training experience in High Education that promotes the learning in network, the collaboration and the efficient use of a community with the new technologies for the improvement of our professional skills in the digital surroundings, through a real project of Public Relations for the social communication of Science and Technology. What would you recommend to these future professionals?.

R: In the first place, I would like to stand out that there is excellent scientific dessimateurs that have not studied a career related with communication, such as chemists and physicists. In reality having a more technical profile helps to comprise better the science; and any professional that are prepared can be a good communicator.

However it is necessary to know how to transmit, know how to communicate and explain the facts to the society. The creativity and the promotion of the participation in the projects is fundamental, contests, videos, workshops, etc…

P: To finalise, which are the challenges for the future in IBERCIVIS?

R: Mainly we want to strengthen the project of voluntary computation in Spain, Portugal and Iberomamérica. We want to keep growing, achieve the 50.000 users and achieve more research groups the trust IBERCIVIS as a tool of calculation.

More information: IBERCIVIS