CCP Games and Massively Multiplayer Online Science (MMOS) have announced that Project Discovery is the People’s Voice Winner in the Games: Public Service, Activism, and Social Impact category of the 25th Annual Webby Awards in recognition for its contributions to COVID-19 research. MMOS also revealed that it has recorded close to half a billion classifications across all its projects in the last five years, including multiple iterations of Project Discovery.
Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honour” by The New York Times, The Webby Awards, presented by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS), is the leading international awards organization honouring excellence on the Internet.
Project Discovery is a groundbreaking citizen science mini-game in EVE Online, allowing players to contribute to scientific breakthroughs in between exploring systems, mining resources, and waging cosmic warfare. Since last June, 327,000 EVE Online players made over 115 million data submissions, saving scientists over 330 years of research to understand how COVID-19 affects blood cells and the human immune system.
Created in partnership with MMOS, McGill University, UNIMORE,BC Cancer, and front-line COVID-19 clinicians, the COVID-19 phase of Project Discovery is a mini-game in EVE Online that lets players process flow cytometry data by grouping cell populations present in blood with a tracing tool. This helps scientists learn how different cell populations and types are altered through infection, and players are offered in-game rewards for participating.
“What a great testament to EVE players’ contribution to science. Through Project Discovery, Capsuleers have made a real dent in the scientific landscape, from the first ‘fictional’ cover on a major scientific journal to new discoveries to saving scientists precious years by training algorithms,” says Bergur Finnbogason, Creative Director for EVE Online. “I truly hope this Webby will inspire others to find even more creative ways to help contribute to science.”
“When we started to pioneer this novel way of collaboration between science and videogames six years ago, winning a Webby Award was way beyond our wildest dreams,” said MMOS CEO and co-founder, Attila Szantner. “This recognition not only reassures us that we are on the right track but hopefully will convince many more game developers to join our ranks to help advance science.”
MMOS’ game-changing citizen science approach was showcased in the latest episode of the docuseries, Off the Cuff. Hosted by Chris Parr and Harris Dirberger, Off the Cuff explores the world’s most fascinating communities, and their look into MMOS examines “How Gamers are Changing the World with Citizen Science.”
“As professional scientists, we have a moral duty to communicate to the public the motivations, principles, and outcomes of our research. This award is a fantastic milestone,” says Jérôme Waldispühl, Associate Professor of Computer Science at McGill University. “It demonstrates that video games can have a unique role in our society, allowing science to reach out to the broadest audience and contribute to building a more cohesive and knowledgeable society.”
“Performing deep immunological analysis of human cells requires not only sophisticated and complex technologies but also potent bioinformatic tools,” says Dr. Andrea Cossarizza, Professor of Pathology and Immunology at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. “Project Discovery is a fantastic example of how gamers are helping the advancement of science and medicine, for improving the health of all human beings. It serves as a framework for machine learning and artificial intelligence and is key for developing novel methodologies for identifying millions of different populations of immune cells almost in real-time.”
“Anything we can do to help the lay public understand science, the process and rigor that goes into how discoveries are made, helps push back against some of the misconceptions that exist,” says Dr. Ryan Brinkman, Professor in Medical Genetics, the University of British Columbia, Distinguished Scientist at BC Cancer, Managing Director at Cytapex Bioinformatics. “Doing so in a way that not only informs but also engages the public is already fantastic, but doing so in a way where they directly contribute to research in a meaningful way lifts up everyone.”
Project Discovery continues as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone can download EVE Online and sign up for an account to play the cell graph mapping mini-game and contribute to this research initiative by visiting www.eveonline.com.
Past versions of Project Discovery have helped scientists locate exoplanets outside of our solar system and contributed human cell classifications to the Human Protein Atlas. MMOS has also created citizen science projects alongside other game developers, like Gearbox Software’s Borderlands Science, to advance research in other key fields of study that require analysis of large datasets.
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