SETI@home looks for user funding
10:38 Wednesday 13th November 2002
Andrew Colley, ZDNet Australia
Despite recent assurances that the distributed computing project isn't running out of funds, the director of SETI@home is asking users to donate
The director of SETI@home -- a high-profile distributed computing experiment to find extraterrestrial life -- has made a plea to his users for funding
after denying late last month that the project was facing a funding crisis.
SETI@home director, David Anderson, last month gave assurances that work on SETI@home II, which would give Australia a prominent role in the
experiment, hadn't stopped and that its current funding situation did not pose an immediate threat to the project's continuation.
Anderson was responding to comments by the project's chief scientist, Dan Werthimer, to Australian scientists at the time giving a gloomy prognosis
for SETI@home I and II.
Anderson has asked SETI@home users to pay $30 to subscribe to The Planetary Society (TPS) in order to ensure that the project can retain its
sponsorship from the organisation.
Last October, Anderson mooted the idea of relying on funding from "grass roots donations" from the project's users, saying that they already
contribute enough to the project and that even when their fiscal support is higher than normal, it "doesn't add-up to all that much".
"That would be a last resort -- going out to the general public," said Anderson.
However, within a few weeks of making that comment, Anderson has done just that in a plea on the SETI@home homepage titled "Keep SETI@home alive --
join The Planetary Society".
TPS has been the project's major source of funds alongside the State of California but this year the organisation has attached conditions to its
continued financial support.
TPS has pledged to donate $250,000 to the project on the condition that 3,750 SETI@home users subscribe to the organisation.
"Running the world's largest supercomputer isn't cheap," Anderson told users. "Our budget includes network bandwidth costs, staff salaries, and
computer hardware maintenance".
At the height of speculation that the project was in danger of closing in October, immediately after Werthimer's comments to Australian scientists
became public, Anderson said the donation page received around $1,400 over a 24-hour period.
At the time Anderson said that was unusually high.
"That's way more than normal but that probably wouldn't go on for very long," he said.