Large scale science efforts are usually international collaborations involving hundreds of people, which is why a massively multiplayer online game was the perfect fit for Project Discovery, a citizen-science effort launched Thursday to recruit volunteers to partake in time-consuming research.
Under the initiative, the Human Protein Atlas has partnered with CCP Games to create a unique in-game experience for the MMOG "EVE Online." The new campaign would enlist players to identify protein patterns and differences in images straight from the lab. While contributing to real science, players will increase in rank and earn in-game rewards.
Project Discovery was first announced at EVE Fanfest 2015. It seeks to crowdsource scientific research. In astronomy, for example, space telescopes are delivering massive troves of data every day, which requires a lot of people to comb through that information. Planet Hunters briefly trained volunteers to look for the telltale sign of a dip in brightness when a planet passes in front of a star. The citizen-science effort, using the Kepler Space Telescope, has led to the discovery of many planet candidates outside of our solar system.
The Human Protein Atlas is creating a massive database of proteins to understand their function and connection to different diseases in cells. "To see it finally get out of a very successful testing stage and into the hands of hundreds of thousands of players worldwide is a proud milestone for us. We hope our example sets the stage for many other successful collaborations between science and gaming to come," said Andie Nordgren, "EVE Online" executive producer, in a statement.
Project Discovery is a partnership between CCP Games, Massively Multiplayer Online Science, Reykjavik University students and the Human Protein Atlas.
In "EVE Online," players join Project Discovery through the Sisters of EVE. In the game, Professor Lundberg is in charge of the mission. Each player is given a tutorial explaining protein distribution in cells as well as recognizing different parts of the cell. These skills will be used to identify proteins and their locations from images straight from the lab.
The individual results will be verified through a consensus comparison and other verification tools. Participation is optional, but players will earn Sisters of EVE loyalty points along with new clothing and a booster.