This document defines the policies governing allocations for compute time and storage on the DesignSafe platform, a comprehensive cloud-based natural hazards research environment for experimental, theoretical, and computational science. The allocation policy for DesignSafe considers that users may have a range of use cases, from short term analysis work to long term data storage, for very large or very small experiments. All registered users are provided access to the Tools & Applications in a controlled manner that limits the amount of computing capacity, and they may request an additional Allocation for various purposes such as the need for larger scale computation or to run applications that are not provided via the portal. New use cases for DesignSafe may emerge—please don’t hesitate to contact the project team if you feel you have special circumstances not covered by this document.
DesignSafe is broadly available to any researcher or practitioner working in open Natural Hazards Engineering and Social Science research. By “open,” the expectation is that any research performed on DesignSafe is unclassified, and will result in publication in a broadly available journal or conference.
All registered users are provided access to the Tools & Applications in a controlled manner that limits the amount of computing capacity, and they may request an additional Allocation for various purposes such as the need for larger scale computation or to run applications that are not provided via the portal. An additional Allocation on DesignSafe is headed by a project PI, typically a faculty member or researcher scientist at a US-based academic institution (private sector users are also welcome, see below). The PI may then add additional investigators, including students to their allocation at their discretion. PIs are responsible for insuring that any users added to their allocation comply with the terms and conditions for use of the DesignSafe resource. Collaborative projects involving non-U.S. researchers are encouraged as long as they include substantive intellectual participation by the U.S. researchers. In joint research projects, foreign collaborators are eligible to make use of that allocation in a manner consistent with the request. While a PI is typically a faculty member or staff researcher at an academic institution, there are a number of other cases where an individual may be eligible to be a PI:
DesignSafe provides access to a variety of cloud-based computing and storage resources, accessible through several different interfaces (see the User Guide for an overview). A Base Allocation of compute time and storage is automatically provided to each user at the time they create an account. Users can request additional Allocations of computation time or data storage. Compute time is allocated in Service Units (SUs), which equates to one hour of wall clock time on a single processor core of time used. Compute time is charged on computations run through the Discovery Workspace via the web interface or through direct command line access to systems provided through DesignSafe. Storage is allocated and charged by the gigabyte-year, a gigabyte of physical storage for a one year time period.
The basic principle for charging service units for DesignSafe resources is to evaluate the amount of time a fraction of the resource is unavailable to other users. If a reservation is made through the portal for a particular date/time in the future, the user will be charged for this time regardless of whether the reservation is actually used, as the DesignSafe scheduling system will have to drain the appropriate part of the system to satisfy the reservation, even if the nodes requested are not actually used.
Additional allocations may be requested via the DesignSafe Portal by submitting a help ticket. An application for an additional allocation includes information about the eligibility of the requestor, a description of the research to be performed and its sources of support, and a justification for the number of SUs requested.
There are four types of allocations available on DesignSafe:
Each of these allocation types is provided through NSF funding at no direct cost to the end user. Users who need additional allocation above what they are allocated, or who are not eligible for an NSF-provided allocation, may choose to purchase additional compute time or storage capacity from DesignSafe. These services will be provided based on the underlying cloud services rates in effect at the Texas Advanced Computing Center at the time of purchase. As of this writing, storage is available for approximately $100/TB/year, and compute time is available for $0.0125 per core hour.
Allocations for DesignSafe resources are made for up to a 12-month period. PIs can continue their activities in subsequent years through annual renewal requests. At the end of each 12-month allocation period, projects forfeit any unused compute SUs. Users with a Startup Allocation need not wait the full 12 months to apply for a Research Allocation, and can apply as soon as they receive preliminary results suitable for their request. Educational Allocations will typically be limited in duration to the academic semester of the class in which they take place.
DesignSafe supplemental allocations are reviewed for merit by a committee consisting of members of the Allocation Advisory Board. The board is made up of researchers in the academic community who are not part of the project team. The board makes recommendations to the project team based solely on the merit of the proposal, and not on overall availability of the resource. The board will review the proposal and make a recommendation to the project team based on the following criteria:
Proposals that are deemed competitive by the Allocation Advisory Board are then reviewed by the project team for technical feasibility (i.e., can the project be implemented in the DesignSafe environment?) and for the availability of time on the resource. For Research Allocations, proposals will be reviewed at least once per quarter. Startup and Educational Allocation requests receive a fast track review, bypassing the Allocation Advisory Board. DesignSafe project staff will review these requests according to the merit review criteria above, and will act on these requests within two weeks of their submission.
Every effort is made to avoid conflicts of interest. Reviewers are not allowed to review or be present for the discussion of requests from their home institution, former students, postdocs, advisors, or current and recent collaborators. If in the opinion of a PI a certain individual has a conflict of interest, the PI may request that the individual not act as reviewer on their request. All reviews remain confidential and are made available only to the PI and Co-PIs submitting the request, assigned reviewers from the Allocation Advisory Board, DesignSafe project staff involved in the allocation review process, and NSF program officers for the DesignSafe project. While the contents of reviews and details of allocation requests and experiments remain confidential, a list of projects receiving allocations and the general area of research may be made public on the DesignSafe web site and used in project reports and presentations.
In some cases, a researcher might exhaust the available allocation in their Startup Allocation, and have a pressing need for additional allocation before their Research Allocation proposal can be reviewed. Similarly, researchers might have pressing needs while a renewal request is pending. In these instances, users can request an advance against a pending allocation proposal for up to 90 days. Advance request can be for up to 20% of the SUs requested in the proposal.
A supplement is a request for additional resources during an existing allocation's one year time frame. Its purpose is to support changes in the original computational research plan that are required to achieve the scientific goals of the project. This may include altered or new goals, or support for projects proceeding more rapidly than anticipated or that require more resources than anticipated. Supplement awards are highly dependent upon availability of resources and limited to when allocation awards at the previous allocation period have been reduced to eliminate oversubscriptions. Supplements are not a mechanism to acquire additional resources for awards that were recommended for less than the amount originally requested. Supplemental requests require the filing of a progress report that documents what has been done with the originally awarded allocation, and makes the case for additional resources.
Extensions of allocation periods beyond the normal 12-month duration can be requested through the portal. This request brings no new allocation, but keeps unused allocations from expiring. A brief reason is required for not using the awarded allocation, but no formal documentation is needed. Note that granting extension requests reduces the amount of allocation that can be given to users in the next year.
A Startup Allocation request consists of the following components:
An Educational Allocation request consists of the following components:
A Research Allocation request consists of the following components:
While readability is of greatest importance, documents must satisfy the following minimum requirements. Documents that conform to NSF proposal format guidelines will satisfy these guidelines.
Use one of the following typefaces identified below:
A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figures, table or diagram captions and when using a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special characters. PIs are cautioned, however, that the text must still be readable.
An individual may be a PI on only one active DesignSafe allocation request at a given time. Several distinct research activities can be combined in a single allocation request, however, the allocation request for each activity must be justified, and any allocation-size limits apply to the aggregate request.
The single-allocation rule is designed to minimize the effort required by PIs for submitting allocation requests and the overhead to the process for reviewing those requests. While PIs may have several different funded grants that require computational support, these should be included as sub-sections within a single allocation request.
There are several exceptions to this rule:
Similarly, to minimize the effort required to gain access to DesignSafe, closely collaborating researchers should submit a single collaborative allocation request rather than several individual requests. For example, a PI and associated post-doctoral researchers; investigators supported by the same funding grant; and researchers in the same lab group should consider submitting a request describing and justifying the various sub-activities. One of the collaborators is designated as the PI, and others can be designated as co-PIs.
An acknowledgement of support from the DesignSafe project and the National Science Foundation should appear in any publication of material, whether copyrighted or not, that describes work which benefited from access to DesignSafe cyberinfrastructure resources. For suggested language, see https://www.designsafe-ci.org/terms/
Well-written research allocation requests will meet the following guidelines:
The purpose of DesignSafe is to accelerate research progress in natural hazards engineering and to provide cyber services to NHERI awardees. The purpose of the allocations policy is to insure the public investment in DesignSafe is used in the best and fairest possible way across the open research community, while making the request process as simple as possible. Following the principles above helps insure fast and fair decision making for this large public investment.
The project team is interested in receiving as many excellent requests as possible, and encourages any potential investigators who wish to use the resource to not hesitate in contacting the team for additional help in preparing this request, with questions about the process, or to discuss any type of project that may not fit the structure described here. The project team also welcomes input in improving this process, and encourages feedback on both this document and the process.