Are you on The Grid?

At any one time at York University, countless personal computers sit idle. Imagine harnessing that idle time to provide researchers with a readily available pool of computer processing power that can be used to solve macro research problems. That is exactly what York University has done by being the first Canadian university to join the World Community Grid. 

The World Community Grid, powered by IBM, uses idle home or work computers – PC or Mac  – joined by grid technology to provide researchers with a large system of massive computational power that far exceeds the power of a few supercomputers. 

York has established its own group on the grid, the "York University Research" team, and York hopes you’ll join it.

The grid is built on the belief that technological innovation combined with visionary scientific research and global volunteerism can change the world for the better. Its success depends on the voluntary contribution of unused or idle computer time to a not-for-profit endeavour.

"It’s amazing the difference we can make as individuals by simply joining the World Community Grid and pooling our collective resources," says Stan Shapson (right), York vice-president research & innovation. "With a community of researchers, staff, students and alumni as large as we have, and as a University dedicated to contributing to global research opportunities, York will be able to make a significant and measurable addition toward the World Community Grid."

In its first year, the World Community Grid ran the Human Proteome Folding Project, which provided scientists with data on how individual proteins within the human body affect human health. The data enabled researchers to develop new cures for illnesses such as lyme disease, malaria and tuberculosis. Scientists now have descriptions of 120,000 protein domains that are critical to human well being. Without the benefit of the free grid technology, it would have taken five years to achieve results, compared to just 12 months on the World Community Grid.

"The World Community Grid is also a tangible way for York University to enhance its growing research reputation within our regional community," adds Shapson, "specifically by complementing our external collaborations with leading industry partners like IBM or our involvement in partnerships such as YORKbiotech, the National Centre for Medical Device Development and CONCERT."

To join the York University Research team, individuals should go to York’s World Community Grid Web page. They will be asked to download and install a free, small software agent onto the computer – either home, school or office. The York page explains how to register as part of the York team.

When idle, the computer will request data from the World Community Grid’s server. Computers then perform computations using this data, send the results back to the server and ask for a new piece of work. Each computation that a computer on the grid performs provides research scientists with critical information that accelerates the pace of the research.

In addition to the Human Proteome Folding Project, the World Community Grid has significantly contributed to projects such as FightAIDS @ Home and the Help Defeat Cancer project. Possible future projects will address global humanitarian issues such as new and existing infectious disease research; genomic research; and natural disasters and hunger.

"You can actually watch as the computations take place on your computer’s screen saver," said Shapson. "It is a fascinating and satisfying feeling to be a part of something that is making such a real impact on global research."

To learn more about York University’s involvement in this global research effort, and for information on how to register and join the York University Research team, visit York’s World Community Grid Web page.

University officials involved with the project say they want York to become the single largest contributing group to the World Community Grid. By registering now, campus computer users can help York help the world.