Research PortalRAC – Frequently Asked Questions

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If you have questions about the terminology, please consult the Compute Canada Technical Glossary.

For more information on Compute Canada’s Resource Allocation Competitions (RAC) process, please refer to these Frequently Asked Questions or send questions to rac@computecanada.ca.

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RESOURCE ALLOCATION COMPETITION (RAC) FAQs

1. Why does Compute Canada need to allocate its resources?

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.

2. Who is eligible to use Compute Canada resources?

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.

3. What are the Resource Allocation Competitions (RAC)?

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.

4. Is there any funding available through the Compute Canada 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.

5. What is the Fast Track process?

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.

6. What kinds of computing and storage systems are available for researchers to access through these resource competitions?

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)
  • Storage
  • Cloud

See more information on the available resources for RAC and services provided by Compute Canada.

7. What kind of technical support is available with an allocation?

The Compute Canada team of experts is available to assist researchers in making use of their allocations. Please email support@computecanada.ca

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.

8. Should I consult with Compute Canada before submitting my competition application(s)?

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 rac@computecanada.ca.

9. How do I apply to the competitions?

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.

10. Can a researcher apply to both the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) and the Research Platforms and Portals (RPP) Competitions?

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 rac@computecanada.ca.

RRG Competition Guide
RPP Competition Guide

11. Is the Canadian Common CV (CCV) required to apply for Compute Canada resources?

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.

12. I don’t recognize some of the acronyms or terms used in the CCDB application template. Is there a glossary available?

Yes. A  list of key terms used in the competition and application process is available here. Please consult this Glossary when preparing your application.

13. Am I at a disadvantage if my project proposal doesn’t rely on, or only partly overlaps with, existing Compute Canada infrastructure?

Compute Canada’s Resource Allocation Competitions only grant access to Compute Canada infrastructure. If you have questions about whether the infrastructure you are using is part of Compute Canada’s national platform, please contact us at rac@computecanada.ca.

14. My research team is small and we do not have much funding, can I still apply to the Resource Allocation Competitions?

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.

15. Can the deadlines for final submissions be extended?

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 rac@computecanada.ca.

16. When will I know if my application is successful?

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.

17. How does Compute Canada calculate the value of its allocation awards?

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.

Financial value of award 2019 2018 2017 2016
1 core year $121.34 $156.78 $188.84 $279.00
1 GPU year $2,453.89 $2,960.77 $566.52 $1,100.00
1 TB of project storage / year $54.96 $36.48 $128.00 $173.00
1 TB of project nearline / year $25.66 NA NA NA
1 VCPU year $80.93 $91.05 $40.50 NA
1 TB of cloud storage (Ceph) / year $117.70 $236.81 $178.50 NA
18. When will I receive my allocation(s)?

All successful allocations are activated in the Spring. The exact starting date will be confirmed in your notification letter.

19. When I am given a resource allocation for computation in core-years, what does that mean?

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.

For more details about compute allocations and resource scheduling please visit this page.

20. Even though I explained how a reduction in my requested allocation would impact my research, why was my final allocation less than my request?

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 RAC 2019, this function was set so that only applications with a science score of 2.3 or higher received an allocation.

Visit the 2019 Resource Allocations Competition Results page for more details.

21. If I use my total allocation and it was not sufficient for my needs, can I get access to more resources?

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.

22. Do currently supported RAC allocations get priority when future allocations are decided?

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.

23. What is the role of the Expert Review Committees?

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. There are 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

RRG and RPP applicants are asked to select a committee of their choosing. However, applications may be moved to a different committee based on the recommendation of the committee Chairs.

 

24. What is the role of the Resource Allocation Competition (RAC) Administrative Committee?

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).

25.My research program has been already evaluated and funded by a granting agency. Why is Compute Canada evaluating the science of my research program again?

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:

  1. Obtain expert opinion about the overall scientific merit and feasibility of the proposed research project(s);
  2. Evaluate the appropriateness of the requested resources for the research project(s);
  3. 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 RAC 2019, this function was set so that only applications with a science score of 2.3 or higher received an allocation.

Visit the 2019 Resource Allocations Competition Results page for more details.

26. Why has the size of annual RAC requests increased each year?

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 Supply: Allocatable CPU Core Years  Need: Total Core Years Requested Provided: Total Core Years Allocated Shortfall Capacity Core Years % of the Demand Awarded
2019 201,320 390,352 157,262 233,089 40.3%
2018 211,020 287,957 158,632 129,325 55.1%
2017 182,760 255,63 148,10 107,538 57.9%
2016 155,952 237,862 128,463 109,399 54.0%
2015 161,888 191,690 123,699 67,991 64.5%
2014 190,466 172,989 133,508 39,481 77.2%
2013 187,227 142,106 126,677 15, 429 89.1%
2012 189, 024 103, 845 87, 312 16, 533 84.1%

 

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RESOURCES FOR RESEARCH GROUPS (RRG) COMPETITION FAQs

1. What is the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition?

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.

2. Who should apply to the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) competition?

Intended for faculty members from all disciplines and their sponsored users. 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.

3. What should I do if I need less than the minimum amount of resources allowed to submit an RRG application?

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.

4. Can a researcher submit more than one application to the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) competition?

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.

5. Do I need to apply to the RRG again this year even if I received an RRG allocation last year?

If you are eligible to Fast Track, you can either accept the invitation to Fast Track or decline and submit a new RRG application. You should accept the invitation to Fast Track if your needs for Compute Canada resources will remain the same, knowing that all allocations are still subject to scaling based on supply and demand and on the amount of resources requested in your previous RRG full application.

Visit this page for details about Fast Track eligibility and application process.

If you need more resources than what you currently have allocated (especially compute or cloud), then you should submit a new application.

6. Do I need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply to the RRG?

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.

7. Is every application to the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition accepted?

No. Due to the imbalance of demand versus available resources, the RRG has increasingly become a more competitive process.

2019 RAC Applications – Submitted vs. Granted

RAC 2019 Applications Submitted Allocations Granted
Compute 426 400
Storage 337 318
GPU 95 82
8. How are the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) applications evaluated?

 

 

Important changes have been made to the scientific evaluation criteria for the RRG 2020 competition. The new evaluation criteria is available in the RRG application guide. We strongly encourage applicants to read it carefully.

9. Do you anticipate I will receive more, less, or about the same allocation for the next Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition?

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.

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RESEARCH PLATFORMS AND PORTALS (RPP) COMPETITION FAQs

1. What is the Resource Platforms and Portals (RPP) Competition and how is it different from the Resources for Research Groups (RRG) Competition?

This competition is aimed at the development of scientific gateways. A Research Platform or Portal is a set of community-developed 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.

2. Who should apply to the Research Platforms and Portals (RPP) 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

3. Can researchers submit more than one RPP application?

Yes. PIs are allowed to submit more than one RPP application per competition round, and may simultaneously hold an RRG award, as long as each application is for a different project.

4. Do I need to submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) to apply to the RPP Competition?

No. The NOI is no longer required for the RPP competition.

5. If I receive a multi-year allocation, do I have to submit a full application every year to renew it?

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.

6. If I have a one-year RPP allocation and want to keep it for next year, do I have to submit a new application?

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.

7. How are the RPP applications evaluated?

 

 

 

 

 

Important changes have been made to the scientific evaluation criteria for the RPP 2020 competition. The new evaluation criteria is available in the RPP application guide. We strongly encourage applicants to read it carefully.

8. If my needs are going to increase over time, but I am not sure how or when that might happen, is it best to submit a shorter term (e.g. 1 year) but more accurate proposal, or should I anticipate my changing needs and submit a longer-term application?

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.

9.What information do I need to provide in the RPP annual progress report?
Please visit the RPP Annual Progress Report page for details.

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ALLOCATION FAQs

1. What does the term 'allocation' mean?

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.

2. What is a core-year?

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.

3. How was my proposal's science score determined?

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.

4. When will I receive my allocation(s)?

All successful allocations are activated in April. The exact starting date will be confirmed in your notification letter.

5. Is my allocation guaranteed?

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 support@computecanada.ca so that they can ensure you have access to the resources you require.

6. If I use my total allocation and it was not sufficient for my needs, can I get access to more resources?

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.

7. Do existing RAC allocations get priority when future allocations are decided?

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.

8. Can I use Compute Canada resources without an allocation?

Yes. Please visit the Accessing Resources page for more details.

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