Do you want to do contribute to research but don’t have the time/nerve/know-how for any kind of deeper involvement? Of course you want to 😀 !
And yes, it is possible! The answer is – distributed or volunteer computing!
This is not a new phenomena, it has been around for quite a long time now. One of the more know projects most likely is SETI@home, where you help analyze radio signals from space in the search for extra-terrestrial life.
Today, the field of distributed computing encompasses all kinds of research areas, including drug discovery. One of many summaries on this subject can be found on this blog by the OpenScientist and of course Wikipedia, on Volunteer Computing.
Thus, by allowing your computer to calculate on behalf of whatever research in question, you indirectly contribute to that project – without lifting a finger. The only thing you need to do is install a program, register yourself as user (for some you can even just run anonymously) with a tiny caveat that you also “contribute” with electricity. But hey – it’s for science, right? In addition, some projects include a fancy looking screen saver!
Don’t want to have your computer on all the time? Don’t want to be bothered while you are using your own machine? No problem, nearly all allow AFAIK several ways to restrict the client with regards to CPU/GPU usage or the time it may run or not.
Can’t decide what to contribute to? Want to contribute to multiple projects but not have multiple clients installed/have to keep track off? Then I can recommend the World Community Grid which supports out-of-the-box 7 different projects. And if I am not mistaken, with a wee bit of manual work, you can make the client run other projects via this client. And if you prefer doing something like this while playing a video-game, even that is possible, for example in EVE Online or FoldIt (these though require a bit more “work” requiring active inputs/analysis by the user and thus go beyond the idea of “simplistic” distributed computing).
Myself, I am supporting the OpenZika project, due to some personal interest in this field. Come join me and many, many others!
Click here to get started!
(Note: this includes my referral ID – don’t worry, there is no money involved, it simply gives out “badges” for “recruitment”. Use the above World Community Grid link instead if you don’t like this idea).