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SETI@Home needs your help!

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Fuzzy Hollynoodles:
From here

Eric Korpela, Forum moderator, Project administrator,Project developer,Project scientist, explains:

--- Quote ---    Whoa.... Been reading the thread. I wasn't aware that Seti was in such dire straits. I guess I assumed that most of Seti was backed by Universities and grants.

--- End quote ---

First we need to make the distinction between SETI@home and SETI. SETI is not an organization, SETI is a field of study. There is no centralized organization running SETI efforts. You may have heard of the SETI Institute. They are not SETI. In fact, most of the people working there have never done any SETI related work.

SETI@home is one SETI project run by the UC Berkeley SETI group. In terms of scientific staff, the Berkeley SETI group is me and Dan Werthimer. Matt Lebofsky and Jeff Cobb form the remainder of the staff. David Anderson is running the BOINC program and advises SETI@home. We have a systems adminsitrator that that is leaving on tuesday because (even if we had ample money) the pay rates for systems administrators at the University don't come close to matching private industry. And we aren't allowed to pay more than the University will let us. (Actually is the state that prevents us from giving raises. Even though we aren't funded through taxes, the University considers us to be part of the overall budget)

That's it, really. 5 people. Less than 3 FTEs.

SETI@home is entirely funded by donations. Most of these donations come from people who also run SETI@home. Universities don't really "back" anybody. Faculty at Univerisities and expected to bring in their own funding. If Dan and I don't bring in money, we don't get paid, but we still keep our jobs (without pay). Matt and Jeff get a pink slip. In exchange for a cut of that funding, the universities provide offices and keep the lights on.

The NSF and NASA currently do not fund any SETI observing programs. At least none that I am aware of. Nor does any other government agency. We submit grant applications to the NSF Galactic Astronomy program, but we are unlikely to get funding. The sorry truth is that the $500,000 per year needed to keep SETI@home running is very large fraction the entire annual NSF Galactic Astronomy budget. The proposals are reviewed by other Astronomers, none of whom work on SETI. They naturally would prefer that the funding remain in the areas of astronomy in which they work. These are also predominantly astronomers who are Professors who get paid by the University for "teaching" in during the school year. (Even though the bulk of astronomy professors rarely teach). Therefore they frown upon paying "senior personnel" with the money they control. And because of earmarks that happened last year, the NSF Astronomy budget is getting squeezed.

Previously SETI@home was funded by corporate donations and matching funds a state program run by the UC Office of the President. SETI@home does not currently have any corporate donors that provide financial donations. Therefore we are entirely dependent on donation which predominantly come from people who run SETI@home.

Regarding to potential of finding wealthy sponsors. We, unfortunately, are forbidden from contacting most wealthy individuals directly unless we have a current relationship with them (i.e. they run SETI@home) or if they contact us. This policy is set by the U.C. Office of the President because the U.C. President prefers to direct such funding toward projects he wants funded. (i.e. a new business school, a new building for biological sciences, whatever else the president wants as his legacy). Funding SETI@home won't get the U.C. President a statue on Sproul plaza. Many wealthy donors to the University also want a lasting (concrete) legacy. Funding projects rather than buildings doesn't really cause letters to appear in granite cornerstones.

--- Quote ---   I was under the assumption that it was managed by people skilled in the area of management.
--- End quote ---

Dan and I have many, many years of experience in project management. The other half of my time, I'm an ultraviolet astronomer that manages the development of instruments for space missions. Being a skilled project manager doesn't help when you can't afford to pay people. You can't hire people until you have enough money to pay then. The University is pretty strict about that.

--- Quote ---    Why donate to a project when the core business or mission isn't being looked after. On the other hand, there is a need to introduce something new to entice more funding which in turn will provide the needs to return to the original mission.
    Am I seeing this correctly so far in basic terms?

--- End quote ---

I think you are seeing it pretty well. Unfortunately with a staff of 3 FTEs we end up chasing fires a lot of the time rather than doing new things, and without money we can't hire more staff. Server outages are bad press, so keeping them running is high on the priority list (and is certainly part of the core mission). We will have some new things to announce this year, but how many and when is a question I can't yet answer.


I mailed Dr. Anderson and asked him for a statement to post here as a comment to this, and he was so kind to answer me.

Dr. David Anderson said:

To Eric's excellent post, I would only add:

1) SETI@home's scientific progress is limited by money,
and it has made slow progress in the last several years.
To each BOINC participant:
carefully examine the list of volunteer computing projects,
and decide which of them is doing the most good.
(This is a personal decision - it depends on your beliefs and values).
By promoting the idea of "cross-project" credit totals,
we have tried to eliminate the incentive to stick
with one project indefinitely.

And also, in response to some of the posts:

2) Buying items from the SETI@home store brings a small
amount of money to SETI@home, but it is much more cost-effective
to contribute directly.

-- David


Thank you David for taking the time for this. It's very much appreciated.   :)

For your info, the questions about items bought in the Seti store was brought up on the BOINC Synergy forum, which I linked to him to see, so he addressed this also.

UBT - Halifax--lad:
Still waiting for this ruddy green star, wish they would get around to awarding them to people who donate through the paypal gateway, just donated to PrimeGrid / BOINCstats and got my reward straight away

UBT Lad,
your ruddy star arrived today ;)

Seriously though, Eric Korpela fixed the import script; from now on, donations will get processed a lot more rapidly.

This was the first time we ever transferred data, and it didn't work right away. Sorry for any anxiety and inconvenience this may have caused.


Wohay! it's listing my donation on my account page  ;D


I made my donation on Sunday, 11.03.07
How long does it take generally to reveive seti@home and when will I see my star?
Is two weeks a usual delay?



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