Research PortalRAC – Frequently Asked Questions
If you have questions about the terminology, please consult the Compute Canada Technical Glossary.
Table of Contents:
- Resource Allocation Competitions (RAC) FAQs
- Resources for Research Groups (RRG) FAQs
- Research Platforms and Portals (RPP) FAQs
- Allocation FAQs
RESOURCE ALLOCATION COMPETITION (RAC) FAQs
The advanced research computing (ARC) needs of the Canadian research community continue to grow as the next generation of scientific instruments is deployed, as ARC becomes relevant to answering key questions in an ever broader list of disciplines, as new datasets are gathered and mined in innovative ways, and as technological advances allow researchers to construct ever more precise models of the world around us. The current CC infrastructure must keep pace with the needs of Canadian researchers. Demand for resources has grown each year and our systems are currently running at maximum capacity.
Any individual who is eligible to apply to national granting councils for funding is eligible to apply for an allocation. Typically, this means that regular faculty are eligible to apply while postdoctoral fellows and graduate students are not. Individuals who have adjunct status may apply for an allocation if the project for which the allocation is requested is eligible for funding from CFI or the granting councils. A PI cannot submit more than one individual application, but can be a participant in other submissions. A PI may simultaneously hold an individual Resources for Research Groups (RRG) allocation and a Research Platforms and Proposals (RPP) allocation.
Compute Canada’s annual Resource Allocation Competitions (RAC) are peer-reviewed competitions that provide priority computing time and storage space on Compute Canada systems. These competitions are open to projects from all disciplines, from humanities to subatomic physics. The allocation requests are peer-reviewed and awarded based on scientific merit and the quality of the research applicant.
Learn more about our Resource Allocation Competitions.
No, Compute Canada is not a funding agency. Through our Resource Allocation Competitions, we offer computing time and storage space in our systems.
This application process gives eligible PIs access to an easy and lightweight multi-year application mechanism for the Resources for Research Group (RRG) competition. Only those PIs that receive an invitation will be able to apply through this process.
In certain situations, there are researchers and small groups who wish to maintain their existing allocation with no change to the scientific approach or minimal to no changes to the amount of resources needed. To reduce the need to re-evaluate these proposals, Compute Canada created a “Fast Track” process. Eligible PIs receive an invitation to fast track.
Applying through the Fast Track process DOES NOT guarantee you will receive the same allocation as last year. Fast Track requests are subject to resource scaling. This could lead to either an increase or a decrease in allocated resources for your project compared to last year.
Requested allocations may be scaled by a different factor than it was last year, according to resource demand and availability constraints.
To know more about eligibility for this process and other details about the Fast Track process, visit this page.
Compute Canada provides a broad spectrum of advanced computing services in support of research, including technical support, training and application. In this call for proposals, you will be able to request access to:
- General Purpose Systems
- Large shared memory systems
- General-purpose computing on graphics processing units (GPGPU)
The Compute Canada team of experts is available to assist researchers in making use of their allocations. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Support may include installing and configuring software packages, assistance in code optimization, and detailed advice on how to solve technical issues. While the Compute Canada team member may end up writing some code for your group, your allocation does not entitle you to deep “embedded” programming support. As a rule of thumb, our staff will help solve problems requiring a few days of their effort, not a few months of their effort.
Yes. It is strongly recommended that all applicants consult with Compute Canada technical staff responsible for the systems they intend to use. This ensures the technical aspects of the proposals match well with the requested systems, to the PI’s benefit. PIs who have not previously used Compute Canada systems should discuss their proposal with Compute Canada technical staff before submission.
All consultations with Compute Canada staff should take place in advance of completing your proposal, to allow time for discussion or revisions if needed. If you do not know the appropriate technical staff to contact, please email email@example.com.
Any researcher interested in applying to the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) or Research Platforms and Proposals (RPP) competitions must be registered with the Compute Canada DataBase (CCDB). Instructions for registering with the CCDB can be found on the Compute Canada website. All applications must be submitted electronically through the CCDB’s Resource Applications section.
Yes, you may submit or participate in proposals to both competitions; however, you should not submit the same project to both competitions. Each competition has specific eligibility criteria, which are outlined in the corresponding competition guides. Prior to submitting a proposal, you should review each competition’s criteria to ensure your project aligns with the focus. If after reviewing the competition guides you still have questions or concerns, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yes. PIs and all co-PIs of a RAC application are required to submit a CCV. Integrating CCV into the Compute Canada DataBase (CCDB) makes it easier for applicants to upload their CVs and standardize their format. It also helps the expert review committees evaluate the quality of each project’s research team.
For instructions on how to submit a CCV, read the Compute Canada CCV Submission Guide.
Yes. A list of key terms used in the competition and application process is available here. Please consult this Glossary when preparing your application.
Yes. Any individual who is eligible to apply to national granting councils for funding is eligible to apply for an allocation, irrespective of the size of the research team or the funding received.
No. The published deadline for submitting final applications to the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) and Research Platforms and Portals (RPP) competitions is a final deadline. There will be no extensions and late submissions will not be accepted. Any concerns with this policy may be directed to email@example.com.
All applicants will be notified of their competition results in March. You will be contacted by email with any additional information you may need or action items required of you to finalize your allocation. Once all recipients have been privately notified, Compute Canada will publish a list of recipients, project allocation amounts, and allocation values to its public website.
It is possible to assign a monetary value to each allocation. This is useful for researchers to assign an in-kind value of the contribution of Compute Canada to their research program (please note: this in-kind valuation cannot be used as match for a CFI award). These values represent an average across all Compute Canada facilities and include the total capital and operational costs incurred by Compute Canada to deliver the resources and associated services. These are not commercial or market values.
The table below shows the monetary value associated to the Compute Canada resources since 2015.
|Financial value of award||2018||2017||2016||2015|
|1 core year||$156.78||$188.84||$279.00||$275.00|
|1 GPU year||$2,960.77||$566.52||$1,100.00||$1,100.00|
|1 TB of project storage / year||$36.48||$128.00||$173.00||$190.00|
|1 VCPU year||$91.05||$40.50||NA||NA|
|1 TB of cloud storage (Ceph) / year||$236.81||$178.50||NA||NA|
All successful allocations are activated in the Spring. The exact starting date will be confirmed in your notification letter.
It means that you will be given priority on a shared Compute Canada system. If you make use of that priority by submitting a steady load of computational “jobs” throughout the year, you should get at least the level of core-years you have been allocated. This is something known as a “fair-share” system, not a “dedicated use” system. If your workload is not steady, but will rather come as a burst during a certain time of year, you are asked to note this in your application and we will attempt to accommodate your workflow.
Please visit this page to know more about compute allocations and scheduling.
Each year, our infrastructure is heavily oversubscribed.
A scaling function, endorsed by the Chairs of the Expert Review Committees, is applied to compute requests to provide a means by which decisions on RAC allocations in a context of insufficient capacity can be made. For the RAC 2018, this function was set so that only applications with a science score of 2.0 or higher received an allocation, with a maximum of 83% of their total allocation request being met for those with a score of 5.
Visit the 2018 Resource Allocations Competition Results page for more details about the scaling function and other RAC stats.
Any Compute Canada user can access modest quantities of compute, storage and cloud resources through Compute Canada’s Rapid Access Service. Unlike the RAC, the Rapid Access Service is not a guaranteed allocation of certain computational resources. It is a shared pool of unallocated resources.
For compute allocations, generally speaking, Compute Canada allocates its batch processing priority based on a fair-share algorithm. Each user is allocated a share of the total system resources, which effectively translates into priority access to the system. If you have used a large fraction of the system recently (ie. larger than your fair-share), your priority drops. However, the scheduling system has a limited time window over which it calculates priority. After some time (e.g., weeks) of reduced usage, it gradually “forgets” that you overused in the past. This is designed to ensure full system usage and not to penalize users who take advantage of idle compute resources. A consequence is that your total allocation is not a limit on how many compute resources you can consume. Rather, your total allocation represents what you should be able to get over the course of the year if you submit a constant workload to the system and it is fully busy. In other words, once your “total allocation” is used, just keep working.
Each annual Resource Allocation Competition (RAC) is handled as a separate process. The current projects have an advantage in that they have demonstrated usage and success stories, but not an advantage by policy.
Compute Canada’s annual Resource Allocation Competitions announce their formal Calls for Submissions early in the Fall each year with final submissions due in November. An out-of-round application process is available for special cases, and applications are accepted up to July 30 of any year.
A PI may submit an out-of-round application to the RRG program for the following reasons:
- PI is a new faculty. This means that you started a new faculty position at a Canadian academic institution during or just after the previous competition round;
- PI has a special opportunity to make a significant scientific breakthrough that you could not have anticipated within the application period for the previous round. In this case, a description of the breakthrough of no more than one page is required as proof of eligibility.
Out-of-round applications follow the same review process as the applications submitted to the regular round. The resulting allocations may have different start dates but will have the same expiry date as the ongoing RRG program. This means, for example, that if you receive an out-of-round allocation in June, it will expire when all other RRGs do at the end of March of the following year.
The annual allocation process reserves only a small proportion of resources for opportunistic and out-of-round usage. Therefore, there are very limited resources available for out-of-round, so large asks may be denied through this process and be required to apply for the next regular round.
For more information, or to request an Out-of-Round Application, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Expert Review Committees are created annually to evaluate the applications for the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) and Research Platforms and Portals (RPP) competitions. In 2018, there were eight Expert Review Committees:
- Astronomy and Subatomic Physics
- Bioinformatics, Neuroscience and Medical Imaging
- Chemistry, Biochemistry and Biophysics
- Environmental and Earth Sciences
- Engineering, Mathematical and Computer Sciences
- Humanities and Social Sciences
- Nano, Materials and Condensed Matter
- Research Platforms and Portals
Yes, applicants may choose the scientific committee they would like to review their proposals; however, Compute Canada reserves the right to assign the proposal to another committee if necessary.
The RAC Administrative Committee implements the competition policies, oversees the entire competition process and provides technical and administrative support to the Expert Review Committees. While the expert review committees determine the merit of the proposal and the appropriate resource allocation, the RAC Administrative Committee is responsible for making those allocations “fit” on existing Compute Canada resources.
This may involve applying a scaling to all allocations, which is endorsed by the Chairs of the Expert Review Committees, but that scaling will be based on the science score not an evaluation by the RAC Administrative Committee. This RAC Administrative Committee is composed of individuals who are knowledgeable of Compute Canada resources and are significantly experienced in the RAC process. It is comprised of technical and administrative leaders representing each region (WestGrid, Compute Ontario, Calcul Québec, and ACENET).
All applications submitted to the Compute Canada Resource Allocation Competitions are peer-reviewed and scored. We understand that some applicants may have already undergone an evaluation through the various granting councils. It is not the goal of Compute Canada’s scientific review process to evaluate and score a PI’s complete research program as an overlap to what the granting agencies have done. Rather, the goal is to determine how to accommodate such projects as best as possible given the limited resources available.
The main purpose of Compute Canada’s review process is to:
- Obtain expert opinion about the overall scientific merit and feasibility of the proposed research project(s);
- Evaluate the appropriateness of the requested resources for the research project(s);
- Provide feedback to the applicants.
The main outcome of this process is an overall score for each application. These scores are used to scale and determine the final allocations to ensure fairness and effective use of Compute Canada resources.
A scaling function, endorsed by the Chairs of the Expert Review Committees, is applied to compute requests to provide a means by which decisions on RAC allocations in a context of insufficient capacity can be made. For the RAC 2018, this function was set so that only applications with a science score of 2.0 or higher received an allocation, with a maximum of 83% of their total allocation request being met for those with a score of 5. Visit the 2018 Resource Allocations Competition Results page for more details about the scaling function and other RAC stats.
The growing demand for Compute Canada resources is reflective of global trends of increased data-intensive research. Within Canada’s research community, we are seeing computational tools and services increasingly being used to identify patterns, undertake modelling and simulations, and support the collection and distribution of massive volumes of data. Table 1 below shows the increase in size of compute and storage resource requests, as well as the average amount awarded, since 2011.
Table 1: Compute supply vs. demand
|Year||Cluster size||Total CY Requested||Total CY allocated||Shortfall capacity CY||Shortfall %||Average awarded|
Collectively, we all have a role to ensure advanced research computing resources keep pace with the needs of Canadian researchers and their international and industrial partners. You can help by:
- Letting decision makers in your institution know that advanced research computing is essential to your research.
- Ensuring your President and VPR are aware of how digitally intensive research is transformative and that it requires sustainable predictable funding models.
- Mentioning the resources you use in your publications and presentations.
- Writing your local MP to share news of your research and how you use advanced research computing.
- Working with your communications department on success stories highlighting the advances in digitally intensive research.
RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH GROUPS (RRG) COMPETITION FAQs
The Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition was created to enable faculty members, and their sponsored research groups, to access compute and storage resources beyond what can be obtained via the Rapid Access Service. Allocations are awarded based on scientific merit of the proposal and quality of applicants (PI and co-PIs). This competition is peer-reviewed and the allocations are available for one (1) year starting in the Spring.
Intended for faculty members from all disciplines and their sponsored users. Awards are based on the Merit of the Proposal and the Quality of the Applicants (PI and co-PIs). Allocations awarded are typically available for one (1) year.
A Fast Track process allows eligible RRG awardees to apply through the submission of a lightweight progress report.
PIs can only submit one RRG (or Fast Track) application per competition round. However, a PI may apply for both the RRG and RPP competitions and therefore hold an RRG award and an RPP award simultaneously.
No one may be the PI on more than one RRG application, but a PI can be a participant (co-PI) in other submissions, and various sub-projects may be included within a single RRG application. There is, however, a single award for the main RRG project, and it is the PI’s responsibility to monitor usage and progress of the sub-projects.
Visit the RRG application guide for more details about this competition.
If you require resources which are less than the minimum required to apply for the RAC competitions, you do not need to submit an RRG application. Instead, you should make use of Compute Canada’s Rapid Access Service, which allows any Compute Canada user to access modest quantities of compute, storage and cloud resources after they register for an account. Opportunistic access to compute resources is also possible through RAS, but priority is only given to those with an allocation.
Many research groups can meet their needs through RAS only.
No. While Principal investigators (PIs) can participate as collaborators on other projects submitting RRG proposals, they can only be the lead applicant for one RRG application.
Yes. Allocations in the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition are granted on a one-year basis, so applicants must re-apply each year for a new allocation.
No. To apply for the RRG, you simply need to complete an application form in the Compute Canada DataBase (CCDB). The RRG Competition announces its formal Call for Submissions in the early Fall with final submissions due in November.
No. Due to the imbalance of demand versus available resources, the RRG has increasingly become a more competitive process.
2018 RAC Applications – Submitted vs. Granted
|RAC 2018||Applications Submitted||Allocations Granted|
All proposals are reviewed based on their scientific merit based on the following criteria:
Merit of the Proposal (60%)
- originality and innovation
- significance and expected contributions to research
- clarity and scope of objectives
- clarity and appropriateness of methodology
- discussion of relevant issues
- impact of the research
- unique training opportunities for HQP
Quality of the Applicant(s) (40%)
Considerations include (for PI and all co-PIs):
- knowledge, expertise, and experience
- quality of contributions to, and impact on, the proposed and other areas of research
- importance of contributions
The Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition is getting more and more competitive each year given Compute Canada’s fixed resources. Although new infrastructure and resources have come online and more will become available over the next few years through Compute Canada’s platform renewal, we are still unable to meet the demand and scaling requests is necessary. While we try to accommodate as much as possible all requests, based on our current resource constraint you can expect that your allocation will either remain the same or be scaled back.
This competition is aimed at the development of scientific gateways. A Research Platform or Portal is a community-developed set of tools, applications, and data that are integrated via a gateway or a suite of applications, usually in a graphical user interface, that is customized to meet the needs of a specific community. Platforms and portals enable entire communities of users associated with a common discipline to use national resources through a common interface. RPP allocations can be awarded for a maximum of 3 years.
Visit the RPP application guide for more details about this competition.
This competition is open to researchers based at Canadian academic institutions who are eligible to apply for funding to the federal granting agencies.
Projects applying for the RPP Competition must also:
- Provide resources to a larger research community via a set of cloud-based tools, applications, and/or data, thus enabling them to access national resources via a common interface.
- Be able to develop, operate and manage the proposed portal or platform with minimal support from Compute Canada.
Generally, an RPP project will involve cloud resources, usually through the development of a front-end gateway on persistent virtual machines, with possible backend compute either through cloud compute nodes or job-based submission to the large national Compute Canada clusters. Additionally, many platforms and portals include large databases.
Applicants for RPPs are expected to have sufficient experience within their groups to develop, manage and operate their platform or portal. Compute Canada provides support to RPP teams on a best-effort basis.
Yes. PIs are allowed submit more than one RPP application per competition round, and may simultaneously hold an RRG award.
No. The NOI is no longer required for the RPP competition.
No. RPP projects that are awarded multi-year allocations are required to submit an annual progress report; however, they do not need to submit a new application each year to renew. This annual progress report must be uploaded directly on CCDB. For more information on what is required for the RPP Progress Report, click here.
Yes. Only those projects that requested and were awarded resources for more 2 or 3 years will be exempted from re-applying. Please consult the RPP Competition Guide for further details.
All RPP applications are peer-reviewed and score based on a 5-point scale. Proposals are evaluated based on the following criteria:
Merit of the Strategic Plan (40%)
Considerations for the evaluation of the Strategic Plan include the following:
Research Problem and Justification
- The research problem or need that the platform/portal will address is clearly presented.
- The importance/relevance of the platform/portal for Canada is well justified.
- The general objectives of the platform/portal are clear.
Goal, Alignment and Impact
- The project goal is clearly stated and aligns with the goals of Compute Canada.
- The research area of focus is of importance and will generate benefits to Canada.
- The expected impacts have been clearly explained.
Use of the Platform/Portal
- The applicant has clearly explained the added value from the creation of the proposed platform or portal for the identified communities.
- Creation of the research platform/portal is being driven by the research community targeted.
- If applicable – The application details the level of interaction between Canadian and international research groups.
- The application presents a clear timeline for the delivery of the anticipated outcomes over the entire duration of the requested allocation and have indicated the means by which they will be measured.
- The outcomes presented are of relevance and importance, and will benefit the users of the platform/portal.
Merit of the Management Plan (50%)
Evaluate the quality of the team assembled to manage, develop and operate the platform. Considerations of this criteria include:
Development and Operations of the Platform/Portal
- The team assembled to develop and operate the platform have the right combination of skills (where positions are not yet filled, a description of the position has been included).
- The proposed methods and technologies are suitable and scientifically justified for the services to be provided by the platform.
- The approach to sharing data sets across the platform/portal is well detailed and the application addresses any potential accessibility issues.
Management of the Platform/Portal
- The team assembled to manage the platform have the right combination of skills (where positions are not yet filled, a description of the position has been included).
- The proposed management of the resources is well defined and will provide broad access to the research communities.
- The process for resource access is well defined and the application identifies a credible plan to maintain or increase the population accessing resources.
- If applicable, the scientific evaluation of selecting projects will result in supporting excellent research with the resources available.
- The reporting framework presented will ensure information collected on the users of the portal will provide the ability to track impacts (scientific, HQP, social, etc.) and the participants are maximizing the benefits of the resources to meet the expected outcomes of the application.
Highly Qualified Personnel (10%)
- The application will generate significant benefits to HQP and has outlined these benefits in the application.
- The anticipated number of HQP participating in the platform/portal have been clearly delineated across academic levels.
- The platform/portal will create unique training opportunities for the participating HQP.
- The application identifies strong examples of cross-pollination between HQP disciplines resulting from the platform/portal.
You have the option of asking for a three-year allocation and then adjusting your ask after the first year. However, that model works well if the scope of the project is very similar and you are tweaking. If you do not need any computational cores in year one but suddenly request to running 128-core jobs in the middle of your grant, that would be a separate proposal. It is common for projects to ask for a single-year award and then reassess.
It means that you will be given priority on a shared Compute Canada system. If you make use of that priority by submitting a steady load of computational “jobs” throughout the year, you should get at least the level of core-years you have been allocated. This is something known as a “fair-share” system, not a “dedicated use” system. If your workload is not steady, but will rather come as a burst during a certain time of year, you are asked to note this in your application and we will attempt to accommodate your workflow. Definitions for other technical terms can be found in the Compute Canada Technical Glossary.
One core-year is the equivalent of using one CPU core continuously for a full year. Using 12 cores for a month, or 365 cores for a single day are both equivalent to 1 core-year. Definitions for other technical terms can be found in the Compute Canada Technical Glossary.
Science scores are based on the quality of the science outlined in the proposal, the qualifications of the principal investigators, HQP training opportunities, and the technical justification for the requested resources. Past usage and overall experience are also taken into consideration.
All successful allocations are activated in April. The exact starting date will be confirmed in your notification letter.
No. Use of your total allocation cannot be fully guaranteed and is contingent to the availability of our systems. You should receive the full allocation listed above if you run in a reasonably constant manner over the year. If you expect to have an uneven workload, please contact our support team at email@example.com so that they can ensure you have access to the resources you require.
PIs can access modest quantities of storage and cloud resources through Compute Canada’s Rapid Access Service. Compute resources are also available for opportunistic use without priority.
For compute allocations, generally speaking, Compute Canada allocates its batch processing priority based on a fair-share algorithm. Each user is allocated a share of the total system resources, which effectively translates into priority access to the system. If you have used a large fraction of the system recently (ie. larger than your fair-share), your priority drops. However, the scheduling system has a limited time window over which it calculates priority. To know more about compute allocations and scheduling, click here.
Each annual Resource Allocation Competition (RAC) is handled as a separate process. The current projects have an advantage in that they have demonstrated usage and success stories, but not an advantage by policy.
Yes. Please visit the Accessing Resources page for more details.