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Collaborating with Compute Canada on CFI Grant Proposals

The CFI has several programs relevant to institutions (and their researchers) requiring Advanced Research Computing (ARC) infrastructure. These include:  Innovation Fund (IF),  John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) and Cyberinfrastructure Initiative. Compute Canada plays a role in each of these programs, according to CFI’s policies. We encourage institutions representatives or researchers to contact us at any time and regardless of how specific or general your computing needs are. We can be contacted by email at cfi-awards@computecanada.ca.

CFI Grants – General Information

As a matter of policy, the CFI is convinced that investments in research computing infrastructure are maximized by promoting the sharing of resources. The CFI, therefore, expects that new or additional computing resources funded through their competitions will normally be housed, managed and operated by Compute Canada. In such cases, Compute Canada will usually assume the associated operations and maintenance costs of the computing infrastructure.

Compute Canada is ready to work with institutions to identify and specify the advanced computing component of the proposals submitted. Compute Canada regional team will help develop the best technical and human support solution to address research challenges in the most efficient and cost-effective way.

In addition, for IF and JELF awards, it is possible for institutions to request funding for specific ARC infrastructure. In these cases, Compute Canada is ready to review options for hosting, operating, and maintaining the infrastructure to provide the highest quality and most cost effective total solution. Compute Canada can leverage its existing CFI-funded data centres, technical, and staffing investments to provide extremely high quality and cost-effective operations and maintenance of systems as part of the national platform, meeting a variety of uptime and security requirements.

Compute Canada can assist institutions in the design and implementation of advanced computing solutions for research in a number of ways; for instance:

  • Procurement – Are there opportunities for leveraging Compute Canada expertise and/or combining infrastructure purchases with other projects to get a better deal from vendors?
  • Design – Can Compute Canada’s technical team help design a vendor-neutral technical solution which can better enable the desired research?
  • Deployment – Will housing infrastructure within a Compute Canada facility result in lower costs of installation, operation and renovation of existing space?
  • Operations – Can Compute Canada’s capacity and expertise reduce operational costs by incorporating the infrastructure within a Compute Canada facility?
  • Effectiveness – Are there opportunities to leverage other Compute Canada resources to provide a more effective solution for research; for example by allowing “bursting” to larger resources when required?

The CFI and Compute Canada recognize that there are instances where, for compelling reasons, computing resources are best housed, managed and operated by individual institutions. Computing resources that normally would not make sense for Compute Canada to deploy and operate include:

  • Advanced computing resources that need to be directly connected to other equipment, such as data storage facilities required for data collection from sequencers or other experimental apparatus (although later stages of processing would likely be best done elsewhere);
  • Advanced computing resources for which the research intrinsically requires the direct physical manipulation of the infrastructure, for instance experimenting with computing networks; and
  • Advanced computing resources which have some other locality requirements which Compute Canada cannot provide.

The process described below is designed to draw on the expertise of Compute Canada to help institutions identify and define their advanced research computing needs for specific projects.

The Consultation and Collaboration Process for CFI IF and JELF Funds

Institutions are expected by the CFI to consult with Compute Canada as soon as possible to discuss their advanced computing infrastructure needs.

The purpose of the consultation is to:

  • Reach common understanding of the scientific objectives of the project and the type of resources being contemplated;
  • Assist in the technical design of the advanced research computing solution needed to enable the proposed research;
  • Establish whether Compute Canada can meet the advanced research computing needs of the project with existing resources, or if additional resources are required; and
  • Determine whether the project has unique characteristics such that the resources would best be housed, managed and operated by the institution.

Step 1: Let’s Talk

The process begins with an initial email discussion between Compute Canada, an institutional representative and the Project Leader to determine the scope and needs of the proposed project. We encourage institutional representatives and Project Leaders to engage with us as soon as possible when they are planning to request advanced research computing resources and services, where possible including all available background material to help Compute Canada technical team understand the project and its requirements. Email us at cfi-awards@computecanada.ca.

Compute Canada will respond promptly (within two business days) to either request further information or to set up a meeting in the following two weeks. This meeting will normally include the project leader, a Compute Canada representative and an institutional representative and will be held in person or by teleconference depending on which is most convenient. In Step 1, Compute Canada will provide some high level advice about the concept for the project and how the project team should (or should not) interact with Compute Canada going forward.

Step 2: Developing Collaborative Plans

After the initial meeting, Compute Canada will work with the project team to gather additional details required to build a plan for the advanced computing infrastructure for the proposed project. The timeline for determining the plan will depend on the progress of the project team and institutional deadlines. Compute Canada will provide a tentative plan within two weeks of receiving all of the necessary information.

As a result of this collaborative discussion, Compute Canada, the institution and the project leader will agree on wording to be included in the budget justification of the submitted proposal. This wording will verify that the proponent has consulted with Compute Canada and will describe the role (if any) that Compute Canada will play post-award. The final text of the proposal should normally be sent to Compute Canada after it has been submitted to CFI.

Step 3: Following Funding Decisions by the CFI

Following final evaluation, the CFI will inform its decision to the funded institutions that chose to employ Compute Canada’s services and Compute Canada so that both parties can determine the most effective and efficient acquisition, deployment and operation of the infrastructure.

Following the notification of the decision, and at its discretion, the CFI may choose to adjust the conditions of individual awards to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness of the research computing infrastructure that it supports.

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