NCAR Strategic Capability (NSC) projects

 

Update to the NSC program: Two submission opportunities per year

To provide greater flexibility to NCAR scientists regarding timelines of project readiness and to allow the NSC program to better support activities that arise during the course of the year, the NSC proposal process now provides two allocation request opportunities during the year. In addition to the March 2 submission deadline, another opportunity will follow approximately six months later.

To help balance the allocation of NSC core-hours, we would like to hear from any potential NSC project leads who feel that a request for core-hours later this year may be a good fit for their expected activities. Please send a brief email to alloc@ucar.edu by March 2.

The spring submission opportunity is now closed.
The fall deadline will be announced soon.

NCAR computational scientists are encouraged to submit requests for the next round of NCAR Strategic Capability (NSC) projects to run on the Yellowstone system. The first 2015 deadline for submissions is March 2. Another will follow approximately six months later.

Potential submitters are encouraged to consider applying to the opportunity that best aligns with their project's anticipated timetable and readiness. In most cases, a project should consider the opportunity that starts shortly after their planned start, so that preliminary and benchmarking results can be submitted as part of the NSC proposal. A project for the same or similar work can receive an allocation only once a year.

To submit a request, fill out the NCAR NSC Allocation Request Form
and attach the required Request Summary document in PDF format.

Because of the competitive nature of these allocations, labs may have chosen to coordinate submissions from each lab. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact their lab's or division's allocation representative prior to submitting a request.

Please send any questions to alloc@ucar.edu.

NSC allocations

NCAR Strategic Capability (NSC) project allocations target large-scale projects lasting one year to a few years (but not indefinitely long) that align with NCAR’s scientific priorities and strategic plans.

Twice a year, the NCAR Executive Committee (EC) reviews and approves a set of NSC projects for the coming 12-month period. A portion of the NSC's 100 million core-hours will be awarded at each submission opportunity. NSC projects requiring more than one year’s allocation must submit continuation requests each year to report progress toward the project’s objectives.

To be considered for an NSC allocation, a proposed project:

  • should directly relate to one or more specific priorities in the new NCAR strategic plan. Requests that address the grand challenges in the Path Forward, including the development of global models with limited-area higher-resolution grids and the use of data assimilation techniques and statistics with model development and verification, are especially encouraged.
  • must be technically ready to begin production runs from the start of the allocation period. Requests should provide sufficient details to convince reviewers of the project's readiness; projects may be penalized for delayed progress (see below).
  • must require significant computational resources, above and beyond the minimum level defined by the NCAR Executive Committee.
  • should have a well-defined scope and completion timeline.
  • may be linked to an agency funding award or awards separate from the NCAR Base funding.

NSC projects can request allocations of HPSS storage for data related to their activities, within the same budget-constrained growth limits of the CISL archive. However, NSC use of HPSS will follow the data management policies for university and CSL allocations. That is, NSC projects can store data in HPSS for the duration of the project and may ask to keep the data for an additional three years. After that point, the data need to be transferred to a lab allocation or deleted.

The progress of NSC projects will be monitored quarterly to ensure that projects are making sufficient progress and that all projects can complete their work in the remaining allocation period. After each quarter, projects may be subject to losing a portion of their unspent, prorated allocation. Exceptions can be made for projects that identify in their submissions that they have compressed or alternative timetables due to external factors, such as the need to align computations with a planned field campaign or calendar season.

NSC eligibility

All NSC project requests must have a full or part-time regular NCAR staff member with an R or T appointment as project lead. In order for term employees to be eligible as project leads, the period of performance of the project should not extend beyond the employee's term date. Labs may choose to implement policies to coordinate the submissions from the lab in each request period. Joint work with university collaborators is eligible. Projects that span labs are encouraged, though a single project lead should be identified.

NSC allocations have a minimum request size of 5 million core-hours; the minimum size may be revised by the NCAR EC, and the EC may choose to permit exceptions for cause. There is no maximum size limit, though in practice the review process will attempt to accommodate approximately a dozen large-scale projects each year. Consistent with the NSC objectives, NSC requests should not aggregate many smaller projects out of the same lab to meet the minimum request limit.

Request format

NSC requests must prepare Proposal Documents, which should follow the guidance and structure for large allocation requests for universities. Notably, NSC requests must include a five-page summary along with relevant supporting documentation.

Submit NSC requests by filling out this NCAR NSC Allocation Request Form and attaching the required Request Summary document in PDF format.

Review process

NSC requests are subject to two-phase review, with final approval by the NCAR EC.

The first phase is a scientific and strategic evaluation of the project. The panel conducting this review is composed of representatives of each NCAR lab and program who are appointed by the lab and program directors. This panel evaluates proposals according to several criteria:

  • The three criteria used by the CHAP in its evaluation of large university requests – the effectiveness of the methodology, the appropriateness of the research plan, and the efficiency of resource use. The technical readiness assessment provides input into this aspect of the evaluation.
  • The scientific appropriateness of the project and its relationship to NCAR strategic priorities.
  • Whether the large-scale computational resources needed are commensurate with the project’s strategic priority.

The panel recommends allocation levels and identifies priority ranking for submitted requests. A written review summary is made available to requestors following the final decision on awards. All panel representatives from labs and programs not involved in the proposed project review each request.

In the second phase, the EC approves or agrees to modify the recommendations of the review panel. CISL then establishes the final allocation awards. Should any awarded project encounter issues that require it to stop work or be unable to complete its proposed work, additional allocation awards may be made to unawarded requests in order of priority rank and as resource availability permits.

Review schedule

NSC requests are reviewed twice per year. Projects arising too late for NSC consideration will either need to wait, identify bridging allocations from NCAR labs, or apply for startup allocations via the NCAR Director’s Reserve. Such NSC pre-awards must satisfy the criteria for a Director’s Reserve award.

Continuation and reporting

NSC allocations come with commensurate reporting requirements. For those projects requiring more than one year’s allocation, a continuation request will need to be submitted as part of the next year’s NSC request and review process. The continuation request should include a short write-up (approximately one page) for CISL’s portion of the NCAR Annual Report.

At the completion of each project, the project lead documents the work conducted, resulting outcomes, and contributions toward the strategic priority by preparing both a short write-up (approximately one page) for CISL’s portion of the NCAR Annual Report and a brief, 15-minute presentation to the Executive Committee.