Abstract: Folding@home is a distributed computing project in which participants run protein folding simulations on their computers. Participants complete work units and are awarded points for their contribution. An investigation into motivations to participate and patterns of participation revealed the significant contribution of a sub-community composed of individuals who custom-build computers to maximise their processing power. These individuals, known as “overclockers” or “hardware enthusiasts,” use distributed computing projects such as Folding@home to benchmark their modified computers and to compete with one another to see who can process the greatest number of project work units. Many are initially drawn to the project to learn about computer hardware from other overclockers and to compete for points. However, once they learn more about the scientific outputs of Folding@home, some participants become more motivated by the desire to contribute to scientific research. Overclockers form numerous online communities where members collaborate and help each other maximise their computing output. They invest heavily in their computers and process the majority of Folding@home’s simulations, thus providing an invaluable (and free) resource.

Source: Curtis, V., (2018). Patterns of Participation and Motivation in Folding@home: The Contribution of Hardware Enthusiasts and Overclockers. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. 3(1), p.5. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/cstp.109