Citizen scientists–loosely defined as people who volunteer to aid researchers by tagging butterflies, monitoring the quality of water, sorting through galaxies, and more–by and large are committed, curious and enthusiastic about their work. But one citizen scientist has proven to be a little too enthusiastic, and it cost him his job.
Without approval, Brad Niesluchowski, a network systems administrator at Arizona’s Highley Unified School District, allegedly downloaded to every computer in the school district a program that uses Internet-connected computers to search for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence in radio communications. The program, known as SETI@home, is a research project administered by the University of California-Berkeley. The free program uses idle computer time to analyze radio telescope data.
Harnessing the power of the school district’s computers, Niesluchowski has been credited with logging 575 million hours of data search in nine years, resulting in a whopping $1.2 to $1.6 million in extra energy use and related computer expenses paid for by the school district, to its surprise.
Needless to say, he was asked to resign.
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Image: flickr / soapylovedeb