The ACCESS allocations process opens the door for the community of researchers who come to the ACCESS research computing and data ecosystem to pursue their science objectives. ACCESS welcomes requests not just for traditional high-performance computing (HPC) activities, but for any work that can benefit from resources in the ecosystem, including machine learning, data science, science gateways, software development, and more. The policies and their associated practices and procedures provide consistent and well-defined approaches, using merit-review principles consistent with the spirit of the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), to ensure the most efficient and effective use of these resources.
We want to make the allocation process a welcoming gateway for the pursuit of scientific discovery while continuing to serve an essential curation role when demand for resources exceeds the available supply. These policies ensure that access to the NSF-funded national cyberinfrastructure is equitable for all researchers no matter the size of the institution, the scale of the planned work, the discipline of the research, or the demographics of the requestor. We also want the allocations process to be open and transparent, both in the mechanisms of review and the process of making awards. The process should be easy to navigate for the many researchers with small-scale needs, with escalating levels of justification and review applied as the researchers' needs grow.
The ACCESS allocations policies are guided by our goals to:
Create an open, inviting, and democratized allocations marketplace to empower a diverse research community and provide equitable access across disciplines, computing modalities, institutions, and demographics.
Implement an efficient, scalable, and simplified request and review framework to reduce real and perceived barriers in connecting researchers to resources.
Develop a robust, decentralized, and flexible software platform to extend the allocations environment into new user communities and encompass novel resources and diverse usage modes.
These policies are maintained and updated by the ACCESS Resource Allocations Marketplace and Platform Services (RAMPS) team with input from the ACCESS Executive Council, the ACCESS External Advisory Board, RAMPS User Group (RUG), the ACCESS-affiliated Resource Providers, members of the ACCESS Allocations Review Committee (AARC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The policies and procedures are approved by NSF. The allocations procedures and processes are managed and implemented by the RAMPS team.
Any feedback regarding these policies or the associated allocation processes can be submitted via the ACCESS feedback form.
The RAMPS team wants to make the transition from XSEDE to ACCESS as smooth as possible for all allocated researchers and projects. To that end, all projects established by XSEDE processes will be honored as awarded through the end of their current allocation award periods.
The RAMPS team will also re-categorize existing XSEDE projects (Research, Startup, Educational, and so on) into an ACCESS Marketplace opportunity that corresponds to their approximate allocation levels. When those projects expire or the allocations have been consumed, PIs will have the following options:
For projects categorized in the Explore, Discover, or Accelerate ACCESS opportunities, PIs can request an Extension to their project as allowed by these policies. These projects can also request the one-time Supplement of ACCESS Credits permitted for these opportunities.
A PI can choose to submit a Final Report for the ending project and start a new project per these policies within one of the Marketplace opportunities.
Projects classified as Maximize ACCESS should plan to submit a Renewal at the next available opportunity. You can request an extension, if appropriate, to align with the semi-annual schedule.
Ultimately our goal is to transition researchers to the ACCESS Marketplace opportunities in a way that causes the least disruption to their computational activities. Contact the ACCESS Help Desk if you have questions about the best way to proceed.
With these policies, the ACCESS team has made a number of changes designed to further democratize access to computing and data resources, while explicitly allowing for resource-specific, RP-defined eligibility requirements. Some of the more notable changes include:
Graduate student projects
Graduate students are eligible to be PIs for entry-level awards, with an advisor letter of collaboration
NSF Graduate Fellows are eligible PIs for small-scale awards
I.e., dissertation work need not be entangled with advisor's research activities
NSF Graduate Fellows and Honorable mentions are eligible for Discover-level allocations
Projects per PI
PI can have one small- or mid-scale project for each merit-reviewed funding grant
Or may combine grants under one project
Only one (research-oriented) project per PI without supporting grant
Education, gateway exceptions remain
No explicit project “types” such as Education or Campus Champion
We will track these and other types (e.g., gateways) via other means
Small- and mid-scale awards made for duration of supporting grant
Classroom projects will align with the course length
Awards with no supporting grant made for one year, extensible up to 5 years
Largest-scale awards for 12 months
Smaller-scale projects awarded in ACCESS Credits, which can be exchanged for resource-specific allocations
Most familiar actions remain, with rules adjusted for the new opportunity structure
RPs can choose how much to accept per transaction
Projects can be “upgraded” in size by applying for the next-level project size
The ACCESS allocation process relies on many individuals contributing to the successful submission, review and award of project requests. The key roles in these policies and their primary responsibilities are outlined here.
ACCESS Allocation Coordinator. The ACCESS Allocation Coordinator is responsible for enforcing and interpreting the allocation policies; managing the submission, review, and processing of requests; supporting researchers as they navigate the allocations process; and coordinating with Resource Providers throughout the process.
Principal Investigator (PI). The PI has primary responsibility for an allocated project and is expected to be aware of collaborators' activities as part of the project, the overall consumption of allocated resources, and the direction of the project's computational efforts. PIs are responsible for submitting management requests (extensions, supplements, adding users, etc.) in support of the project, but can delegate this responsibility to co-PIs or Allocation Managers. The PI of an allocated project can be but does not need to be the PI for the supporting grant.
Co-Principal Investigator (co-PI). A co-PI on a project can submit management actions on behalf of an allocated project, including requesting supplements, adding users, and so on.
Allocation Manager. An Allocation Manager on a project can submit management actions on behalf of an allocated project, including requesting supplements, adding users, and so on.
ACCESS Allocation Resource Committee (AARC). Members of the AARC are assigned to review proposals submitted to the allocations process, applying the review criteria to assist researchers in making efficient and effective use of the available resources.
Resource Provider. A Resource Provider site operates and maintains resources within the cyberinfrastructure ecosystem. Resource Provider staff support researchers by reviewing progress, approving requests to use their resources, and providing resource information essential to the effective and efficient allocation of their resources.
ACCESS considers the allocation requester, the nature of the work to be conducted, the sources of support, and the type of research activity, in determining the eligibility of an allocation request.
ACCESS allocations are available to any researcher or educator at a U.S. academic, non-profit research, or educational institution. A U.S.-based researcher, engineer, or scholar who has a joint appointment with a university or non-profit research institution may submit a request using that affiliation. The appointment may be adjunct, instructional, or any other official position. A postdoctoral researcher is eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) on any project type. Graduate students are eligible to lead Explore ACCESS allocations under the guidance from their advisor. NSF Graduate Fellows and Honorable mentions are eligible for Discover ACCESS allocations.
Research staff from federal and state agencies or federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs) can apply for an ACCESS allocation if their agency or center does not typically provide research staff with access to advanced resources of adequate scope for the planned research.
The two most common classes of ineligible PIs are (a) students and (b) researchers or scholars based outside of the United States. In the case of high school, undergraduate, and (in some cases) graduate students, a qualified advisor—e.g., a faculty member or high school teacher—must serve as PI. In the case of international researchers or scholars, ACCESS supports collaborations with foreign colleagues, but an eligible U.S.-based researcher must serve as the PI on ACCESS requests and allocations.
For more details on individual eligibility, foreign collaborators, and researchers from other types of institutions, please see the appendix on Further details on eligibility.
ACCESS welcomes allocation requests from throughout the research, education, and scholarly community. Work from any field of study is eligible to be considered for an ACCESS allocation. ACCESS supports work in the physical sciences, life sciences, engineering, social sciences, the humanities, and the arts.
The primary eligibility consideration is that the work is intended for publication or other appropriate forms of scholarly dissemination. Proprietary or confidential work is not supported by ACCESS allocations.
Eligible requests may have support from any funding agency or funding source. Furthermore, while most requests do have merit-reviewed funding awards, a PI need not have any external or merit-reviewed support to submit a request or receive an allocation. However, requests without merit-reviewed funding will be evaluated on their intellectual merit as part of the review process.
Some Resource Providers may impose additional, resource-specific eligibility requirements on the use of their resources. These may be due to the nature of the specialized hardware, requirements from their funding sources, or other considerations. Any such resource-specific eligibility requirements will be spelled out in the descriptive information provided for each resource.
In addition to basic user eligibility rules, all ACCESS allocation requests are reviewed against common criteria to determine the appropriateness of work for ACCESS resources. These criteria apply to all requests, regardless of the types of resources, the size of the request, or the domain of inquiry, with the level of scrutiny rising with the scale of the requested resources. In applying these criteria, investigator productivity and scholarly outcomes are the end goals. PIs must provide justification for these criteria suitable to the nature of the request, and reviewers shall apply the criteria in the context of the request. If the reviewers conclude that the request is more appropriate on ACCESS resources other than those requested, they may recommend other resources instead.
Appropriateness of Methodology: Does the request describe appropriate tools, methods, and approaches for addressing the research objectives? These methodologies may be community codes or models, data analysis methods, or algorithmic formulations expressed in user-developed scripts or tools.
Appropriateness of Research Plan: Does the request describe necessary and sufficient computational experiments to answer the research questions posed? In some cases, the research plan may be more reasonably expressed as estimates of resource use, supported by past or early experience. Serious concerns about the research plan will be documented in reviews and may lead to reduced allocation awards.
Efficient Use of Resources: Has the request identified appropriate resources for undertaking the research plan with the proposed methodology? Will those resources be used as efficiently as is reasonably possible and in accordance with the recommended use guidelines of those resources?
Supporting Grant Alignment: Is the proposed work supported by a grant or grants that have undergone separate merit review? If so, is the allocation request consistent with the objectives of the supporting grants and is the scale of resource use commensurate with the level and purpose of support? Does the identified support provide necessary and sufficient human resources to complete the proposed work? When a request is supported by merit-reviewed supporting grants, the intellectual component is not subject to further review by ACCESS. However, if a request is not supported by a merit-review award, reviewers will assess the intellectual merit of the proposed work in a manner consistent with the scale of the request and the NSF's intellectual merit criteria.
All ACCESS allocation requests are subject to a common, basic set of policies and procedures, which are summarized in this section.
In general, the allocation opportunities in the ACCESS Marketplace allow individuals or groups to pursue their research objectives with appropriate, manageable levels of effort. The opportunities provide increasing amounts of resource access, and as resource requirements increase, the submission requirements and review scrutiny also increase. Submission requirements and review processes for each opportunity are described in later sections:
Any type of intended resource use — computational research, science gateway, code development, educational, and so on — is acceptable at any opportunity if accompanied by suitable justification required for that opportunity.
Researchers can make their initial ACCESS request at any opportunity. However, reviewers may recommend redirecting requests to a more appropriate opportunity. Upon determining that their resource needs are greater than that provided by the initially chosen opportunity, researchers may submit requests to transition their project to another opportunity.
Because of the ease of submitting Marketplace requests, RAMPS will hold firm to the resource limits defined for each opportunity in order to maintain fairness across the community. Researchers are encouraged to optimize their use of the resources to fit within a given opportunity.
For all but the largest-scale resource needs, Marketplace allocations are awarded in ACCESS Credits. After a project is created, the PI must exchange ACCESS Credits for allocations on specific resource(s) to begin computing. Resource Providers approve, modify, or decline these exchanges based on the appropriateness of the work for that resource as well as the availability of that resource. RAMPS provides an exchange calculator to help researchers to apply the exchange rates for ACCESS Credits on the various resources.
In general, a PI can have one project for each merit-reviewed supporting grant, or they may combine similar work spanning multiple grants into a single project request. The PI should select the allocation opportunity that is best suited to the scale of the computational work to be performed. Similarly, closely collaborating researchers—e.g., researchers on a set of NSF “Collaborative Research” projects—should submit a single collaborative request rather than several individual requests.One of the collaborators should be designated as the PI, and others can be designated as co-PIs.
For research activities not supported by a merit-reviewed funding award, PIs should consolidate their activities into a single request.
PIs may also request separate projects for activities representing distinct non-research situations:
A PI may request a separate project to operate a gateway service that is distinct from their research activities.
A PI may submit requests for any number of projects to keep classroom and training activities and users separate from research activities.
A PI has received guidance from the review panel via the ACCESS Allocations Coordinator that the panel will consider separate requests from the PI based on the lines of work discussed in a prior proposal. The requests should be divided as described in the panel's guidance.
ACCESS manages the allocation requests and awards for a set of cyberinfrastructure (CI) resources, many funded in whole or in part by NSF. A full listing of allocated resources, architectural details, allocation units, and statements of recommended use is provided at the ACCESS website and within the allocation submission system.
Each resource has a defined allocation unit and guidelines for how to calculate allocation amounts. In addition, each allocated resource has a statement of recommended use that describes the Resource Provider's policies, any usage models that may be emphasized or not permitted, and any limits on requests. PIs are advised to review these resource details and guidelines before submitting requests for specific resources.
A PI's allocation request (whether by exchanging ACCESS Credits or making a specific resource request) must justify the requested allocation amounts, must fall within the recommended uses for those resources, and may need to describe how the project's research objectives require the capabilities of specialized resources.
For the opportunities allocated in ACCESS Credits, projects supported by a merit-reviewed funding award can be requested for and awarded up to the duration of the supporting grant. The allocation opportunity credit limits apply for the duration of the project.
Projects in support of educational needs will have allocation periods that align with the length of each instance of the educational or training course (e.g., a semester). The instructor may request that the allocation extend slightly beyond the end of the course, with suitable justification.
For other ACCESS Credits projects not supported by a merit-reviewed funding award, allocations are awarded for 12-month periods. PIs can request 12-month extensions, up to a total of five years, as long as their resource use stays within the credit limits for the opportunity.
For the largest-scale requests (i.e., the Maximize ACCESS opportunity), awards are typically made for a 12-month period; shorter periods may be recommended by the review panel to ask for clarifications from a PI while allowing meritorious research to begin. With a brief explanation, a PI can request up to a six-month extension to continue using existing allocation amounts. PIs can continue their activities in subsequent years through annual renewal requests.
At the end of an allocation period, projects forfeit any unused allocation units. At the Maximize ACCESS opportunity, significant unused allocations may contribute to reduced future allocations from the review panel. A Resource Provider may also reduce an allocation balance during allocation management requests. Such reductions most commonly occur when a project with a large remaining balance requests a time extension.
Information about approved allocation awards and descriptive project information (PI name and institution, title, and abstract) are not considered to be confidential and shall be publicly available through ACCESS services. This policy is consistent with NSF practice of publishing award abstracts and funding amounts.
All ACCESS allocation requests, request documents, and reviewer comments are considered confidential and are only made available to:
the PI and co-PIs of the submitted request;
members of the review panels without a conflict of interest;
ACCESS staff, including relevant allocations and user support staff members;
Resource Provider representatives; and
Confidential information can be released beyond these limited groups only with permission from the PI.
For the Discover and Accelerate opportunities, PIs must use the provided proposal templates to ensure reviewers are provided the necessary information to make decisions on allocation requests. PIs are advised to read the available example proposals to make sure they are awarded the resources they need.
Progress reports are required in order to receive the second half of the available ACCESS Credits for Explore, Discover, and Accelerate opportunities. In no more than three pages, a progress report should summarize the work accomplished to date, describe how the ACCESS resources were used to support the work, identify any publications in progress, and summarize how the project will be completed with the remaining ACCESS Credits (or plans to move the work to another opportunity). Published citable works should be entered separately via the supplement submission interface.
Progress reports are also essential to successful renewal requests at the Maximize opportunity. The progress report should summarize the work accomplished to date, describe any deviations from the originally proposed work, identify any publications in progress, and explain why any resource allocations were substantially underused (if applicable). For resources without accounting charges, a PI must describe how the resources were used effectively and justify any continued need for resources in subsequent years. Failure to discuss the resource utilization may result in a reduced or declined allocation. Published citable works resulting from the prior allocation should be entered via the renewal submission form.
Upon the completion of any project, the PI must submit a final report that summarizes the work accomplished with the awarded allocations and describe how the ACCESS resources were used to support the work. Significant deviations from the originally planned work or reasons for being unable to accomplish the work should also be briefly described. Publications or citable works resulting from the allocations should be added separately via the renewal submission interface.
An acknowledgement of support from the appropriate Resource Providers and ACCESS should appear in any publication of material, whether copyrighted or not, that describes work that benefited from access to ACCESS cyberinfrastructure resources. For suggested language, see How to Acknowledge ACCESS.
PIs should report all articles or other citable works that benefited from support by ACCESS-allocated resources. These research products can be reported via the ACCESS allocations interface as part of a PI's allocation requests, progress reports, or final reports.
The Explore, Discover, and Accelerate opportunities are the available options for small- and medium-scale projects, and the submission and review policies are designed to balance the submission and review effort with ensuring a good fit between the project and the resources. All options require completion of the standard request form, which collects information for use in review decisions and data to to help stakeholders such as NSF understand the nature of ecosystem activity. ACCESS accepts requests for these opportunities at any time, and the requests are reviewed and processed continually. These requests are typically reviewed and processed within two weeks of submission. PIs are notified by email when a decision is finalized.
Requests for projects in these opportunities are awarded in ACCESS Credits. Up to half the posted Credit limit for the opportunity will be awarded with the initial request. The other half of the Credit limit will be awarded via a Supplement request accompanied by a Progress Report describing the work completed to date.
Explore ACCESS: Explore ACCESS projects are intended for purposes that require small resource amounts. Researchers new to the Marketplace can try out resources or run benchmarks, instructors can provide access for small-scale classroom activities, research software engineers can develop or port codes, graduate students can pursue theses and dissertations, and so on. Explore ACCESS requests require only an abstract to complete the submission.
Discover ACCESS: Discover ACCESS projects are intended to fill the needs of many modest-scale research activities or other resource needs. The goal of the Discover ACCESS opportunity is to allow many researchers to complete the work associated with funded awards with a minimum of effort. Discover ACCESS requests require a one-page description of the project (template provided) to address the review criteria. Researchers can also ask for an advisory review of their planned work to guide them to appropriate resources.
Accelerate ACCESS: Accelerate ACCESS projects support activities that require more substantial resource amounts to pursue their research objectives on ACCESS-allocated resources. Awards in this opportunity are still awarded in ACCESS Credits and can be submitted at any time. Researchers are expected to have well-defined plans for their resource use, and to submit a 3-5 page project description (template provided) to be reviewed by members of the AARC. Reviewers may recommend the requested ACCESS Credits or may recommend a Discover ACCESS award.
For projects with resource needs beyond those provided by the Accelerate ACCESS opportunity, a Maximize ACCESS request is required. ACCESS does not place an upper limit on the size of allocations that can be requested or awarded to Maximize ACCESS projects; however, Resource Providers may have limits on allocation amounts for specific resources. In aggregate, Maximize ACCESS proposals for allocations represent a significant investment of the NSF. The review process therefore strives to be as rigorous as for equivalent NSF proposals.
The submission requirements for Maximize ACCESS requests are detailed in the ACCESS allocations documentation. The requirements may evolve over time to ensure that the reviewers have adequate information to assess submissions and ensure efficient and effective use of the allocated resources.
Maximize ACCESS requests are accepted, reviewed, and awarded semi-annually. The ACCESS Allocation Review Committee (AARC) is convened to review requests and recommend allocation amounts. All funding used to support the work proposed in a Maximize ACCESS request must be reported in the submission process. Reviewers use this information to assess whether the PI has enough support to complete the work, analyze data, prepare publications, etc.
Maximize ACCESS requests are assigned to reviewers based on their expertise and the field of science for each request. External reviewers may be sought to provide comments if no AARC members have sufficient expertise. After reviewers have been given time to assess their assigned requests, the proposals are discussed at a meeting of the full review panel, and the panel recommends an allocation amount for each request. The panel may recommend supporting the request with a Discover ACCESS or Accelerate ACCESS award.
The AARC reviewers evaluate the merits of each request according to the allocation review criteria (above). The availability of resources (i.e., the amount of service units available for allocation) is not considered in the review. Necessary reductions due to insufficient resources are made after the merit review, under NSF guidelines, by the RAMPS team and Resource Providers.
In consultations between the AARC, RAMPS staff, and RP staff, recommended allocations may be transferred to other resources for projects that are better suited for or that can take advantage of other resources, to help balance the load and maximize final awards. Consideration will be given to the impact of a resource transfer on the continuity of the research, if a researcher has been computing on a specific resource. When the recommended levels considerably exceed the total amount available to allocate, a formulaic “reconciliation” process adjusts all recommended allocations to remove oversubscription. This reconciliation process reduces large allocations more than small ones and prioritizes projects supported in full or in part by NSF grants.
The AARC is the committee convened to review large-scale requests submitted to ACCESS. The AARC consists of volunteer experts from the faculty and staff of U.S. universities, laboratories, and other non-profit and commercial research organizations. All committee members have expertise in at least one area of computational science or engineering and serve a term of approximately three years, with a possibility of a one-time renewal. PI and co-PIs of ACCESS allocation awards may serve on the AARC.
The AARC ensures that:
Requests for resources above a threshold level determined by ACCESS are merit-reviewed.
Written reviews of the resource requests are completed in a timely manner and made available to the requesters and ACCESS.
Recommendations to ACCESS for the allocation of resources based on the requests, reviews, and the available resources are developed and documented.
The environment for this process is consistent with the conflict-of-interest policy and confidentiality of requesters and their reviews is maintained.
Every effort is made to avoid conflicts of interest between reviewers and requests. AARC members 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. In addition, AARC members who are also PIs or co-PIs on Maximize ACCESS requests do not review requests for or otherwise participate in the AARC meeting to which they submit their requests.
The complete Conflict of Interest Policy for ACCESS is included as an appendix.
PIs who wish to appeal the outcomes of the AARC process may do so by submitting an Appeal. An Appeal should be submitted within four weeks of the date when the PI is notified of the review results.
An Appeal may be used to supply additional information or clarification requested by the reviewers to make a final recommendation. A PI may also use an Appeal to specify, in the PI's opinion, why the reviews of the original request and the resulting allocation were incorrect or unfair. An Appeal can be used only to supply requested information or to provide a rebuttal for a reduced allocation. It may not be used to resubmit a rejected request. In the case of a rejection, the PI should submit a revised request in the next submission period.
If possible, the AARC members who reviewed the original proposal will consider the appeal. Reviewers are expected to respond within two weeks; the ACCESS Allocations Coordinator will determine if any increase will be made to the initial allocation. At least one favorable review is required before the Allocations Coordinator may make an assessment for an allocation. If the amounts to be allocated are not available on the desired resource, the allocation may be made on another resource. When the reconciliation process has been used to reduce requests, appeals may not be considered until the next meeting of the AARC.
Once a project has received its allocation, the PI has a number of options to ensure the flexibility needed to complete their research objectives.
In all cases, management actions are subject to resource availability on the target resource and Resource Provider concurrence. A Resource Provider may decline requests for reasons including resource-specific eligibility requirements, lack of alignment with a resource's posted recommended use, the resource not being able to support the planned applications, and so on.
A PI may share their allocation by adding collaborators' user accounts to their project. Collaborators may be graduate or undergraduate students as well as colleagues based outside of the U.S., with the exception of researchers based in countries on the U.S. State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. Some Resource Providers may have additional restrictions on international collaborators.
Exchanges are the mechanism by which PIs convert their ACCESS Credits to specific resource allocations. At any opportunity, PIs can also request that specific resource units on one platform be transferred to another. All exchanges and transfers are subject to conversion of units according to established exchange rates.
Exchanges and transfers can only be made within a project; credits or resource units cannot be moved from one project to another.
During an allocation award period for an Explore, Discover, or Accelerate ACCESS project, a PI may request a one-time increase to their ACCESS Credits via a supplement request. The supplement may ask for up to half the current ACCESS Credit limit for that opportunity. Projects that need more resources should submit a request for the next larger opportunity (see Project Upgrades below). Supplement requests for these opportunities are accepted at any time and are generally decided within two weeks of submission.
For Maximize ACCESS projects, supplement requests have no limit, although Resource Providers may limit supplemental awards based on resource availability. The supplement request should describe why more resources are needed to complete the work in progress and justify those additional resources according to the review criteria. During periods of high resource demand, supplement requests may be declined or held for review during the next AARC opportunity.
For projects supported by a funding award, extensions can be requested for Explore, Discover, or Accelerate ACCESS projects if the end date of the funding award changes through a no-cost extension or other means. A single extension of up to six months past the end of the funding award may be requested to wrap up the project.
For projects not supported by a funding award, Explore, Discover, or Accelerate ACCESS projects can be extended in 12-month increments for up to five years. Projects associated with an educational opportunity (university course or training event) are typically not extended, so that ACCESS and RPs can close unused accounts to reduce any latent cybersecurity risk.
Maximize ACCESS projects that encounter problems in consuming their allocations, such as unexpected staffing changes, can request a one-time extension to their allocation end date of a maximum of six months.
Note that extensions apply to all current resource allocations on the same project; PIs cannot extend some allocations and submit overlapping renewal requests for other resources. If a project still has unused allocation units at the end of the extended allocation period, the PI must submit a renewal request to continue their ACCESS project. The renewal request should explain the reasons for the unused allocation as part of the accompanying progress report.
When an Explore, Discover, or Accelerate ACCESS project reaches the end of its associated funding award, a PI may choose to renew their ACCESS project to pursue work supported by a subsequent funding award. With a renewal, the project is entitled to the full ACCESS Credit limit for that opportunity; however, unused Credits and resource units associated with the prior allocation will be forfeited. (For overlapping funding awards, a PI may submit a separate project request if additional resources are needed.)
To continue a Maximize ACCESS project beyond its initial allocation period (including any extension applied), the PI should submit a renewal request to the AARC for consideration. In most cases, this request should be submitted approximately one year after the initial request submission, so that it can be reviewed and awarded to avoid any interruption. In general, the appropriate submission period is approximately three months prior to the expiration of their allocation. Maximize ACCESS awards may support efforts spanning more than one funding award. However, a PI with an active Maximize ACCESS award may choose to request a separate allocated project at an appropriate opportunity to encompass the work of a separate funding award.
If a PI exhausts the maximum amount of ACCESS Credits available at a given opportunity and determines that more resources are needed to complete the project, they may submit a request to a larger opportunity. The proposal document for the larger-scale opportunity should describe any progress made at the smaller-scale opportunity. The initial allocation of ACCESS Credits will be half of the total amount for the new opportunity minus the amount consumed at the smaller-scale opportunity. When moving to the Maximize ACCESS opportunity, projects will be awarded according to the AARC process. The PI will be entitled to proceed according to the rules governing the new project opportunity.
A PI who applies for an ACCESS resource allocation is usually a researcher or educator at a U.S. academic or research institution. A postdoc is eligible to serve as a PI in any opportunity, and graduate students may serve as the PI on an Explore ACCESS project. NSF Graduate Research Fellowship awardees and honorable mentions may serve as PI on either an Explore ACCESS or Discover ACCESS project. Undergraduate students are not eligible to be PIs. This section clarifies and makes explicit the eligibility rules that apply to specific classes of researchers and educators.
Graduate students are eligible to be PIs on Explore ACCESS allocations; their graduate advisor must be included on the request as a co-PI. NSF Graduate Student Fellows and Honorable Mention recipients may serve as PIs on requests for Discover ACCESS allocations. Their graduate advisor must be included on the request as a co-PI. In both of these cases, a letter of collaboration from the graduate advisor confirming their awareness of the request and engagement in guiding the computational activity is required.
Undergraduate students and high school students are ineligible to be PI of an allocation request; a qualified advisor must serve in this capacity.
Research staff employed by federal agencies or non-NSF FFRDCs are eligible to apply for an ACCESS allocation if their agency or center does not typically provide research staff with access to non-ACCESS resources of adequate scope for the planned research.
For eligibility purposes, military service academies are treated as academic institutions. Allocation requests submitted by faculty members at the military service academies, including the U.S. Military Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, and the Uniformed University of the Health Sciences, will be accepted and reviewed on the same basis as requests from other academic institutions.
Research staff from state and local government agencies can apply for an ACCESS allocation if their agency does not typically provide research staff with access to advanced digital resources of adequate scope for the planned research.
A teacher or educator at an accredited public or private K-12 school or state educational office is eligible to apply for an allocation to support instructional activities. These requests should be intended to broaden the impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of science, mathematics, and engineering education at the K-12 level.
Independent museums, observatories, libraries, research laboratories, professional societies and similar organizations in the United States that are directly associated with educational or research activities are eligible.
Scientists, engineers, scholars, or educators located within the U.S. may be eligible for support, even if the individual is not employed by or affiliated with an eligible organization.
A person is eligible provided that (a) the project is sufficiently meritorious and otherwise complies with the conditions of any allocation request; and (b) the requester has demonstrated the capability to carry out the project. Unaffiliated or self-employed individuals should contact the ACCESS Help Desk before preparing a request for submission.
In general, consistent with the guidance in the NSF PAPPG I.E.1, if the PI is at an international branch campus of a U.S. institution of higher education, an allocation submission must describe the substantive U.S.-based collaborative involvement in the project, explain the benefit(s) to the project of having the PI at the international branch campus, and justify why the project activities cannot be led by a researcher at the U.S. campus. Activities involving only faculty, researchers, and students from the international branch campus are not eligible for ACCESS allocations.
Collaborative projects involving non-U.S. researchers are encouraged as long as they include substantive intellectual participation by U.S. researchers. Allocation requests with “foreign components” must be made by an eligible U.S.-based PI with a substantive role in the allocated activities. A foreign component is defined as the performance of any part of the project outside the U.S. either by the PI or a researcher, or researchers employed by a foreign institution. Foreign collaborators are eligible to make use of that allocation in a manner consistent with the request.
ACCESS will not provide an allocation to a PI that does not have a substantive role in the project: the PI may not simply serve as a proxy for a foreign researcher.
A researcher from a U.S. commercial organization may apply for an allocation as the PI. In particular, small businesses with strong capabilities in scientific or engineering research or education, such as SBIR or STTR grants from NSF or other agencies, are usually eligible. NSF is also interested in supporting projects that couple commercial research resources and perspectives with those of universities; therefore, ACCESS especially welcomes requests from cooperative projects involving both universities and the private sector.
To be eligible, projects from the private sector must intend to and be permitted to submit their work in an open forum and make the work readily available to the public. In this case, “open” means that the organization has funding or an agreement with another eligible institution to do research that is guaranteed to be accessible and submitted to an open organization or journal for merit-reviewed dissemination of the results. A submission through a private sector organization is subject to additional screening to verify the openness of the proposed work.
In addition to supporting scientific research by commercial organizations under the terms described above using the normal ACCESS allocation process, many of the ACCESS-affiliated Resource Providers have active industrial partnership programs, including funded access to resources without the restrictions associated with free allocations. Interested persons should contact the Resource Providers directly.
To ensure the integrity and fairness of the allocations process, ACCESS has defined a conflict of interest policy, closely aligned with NSF's approach to managing conflicts of interest in reviewing its own proposals.
The procedures for evaluating resource allocation requests must be fair and equitable to all requesters and protect the integrity of the research, science, the NSF, ACCESS, and the Resource Providers. Recommendations are to be based on objective judgments of merit without regard to personal biases. Individuals involved with AARC activities shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any individual or organization and may not use their position on the AARC or knowledge gained through AARC activities to obtain a personal advantage either for themselves or for any other person or entity with whom or in which they have a financial or other vested interest.
A conflict of interest (COI) is a contention between an individual's concern for the public interest or the best interest of ACCESS and their private interests or allegiances. COIs also compromise the decision-making process by biasing its effectiveness. Both actual and perceived conflicts of interest may compromise the integrity and standing of ACCESS in the research community, its sponsors, and the professional reputations of individuals. As such, actual and perceived conflicts of interest must be scrupulously managed or avoided.
The guidelines and ethical standards presented here provide a framework by which COI situations can be identified and resolved, thus minimizing the level of personal bias in the provision of cyberinfrastructure resources to the national academic community.
Conflicts of interest are common and sometimes inevitable, and thus a disqualification to review should be understood to be a positive solution and in no way a reproach. Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the standards outlined in this document have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts.
AARC participants are encouraged to seek guidance on these COI guidelines at any time from the Allocation Coordinator.
The AARC COI Policy is based on and informed by NSF COI policies and practices, including the following documents. NSF COI guidance can be found at:
Panelist Conflict of Interest Training from NSF's Office of General Counsel,
Conflict of Interest Policies from Chapter IX – Grantee Standards in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG),
Exhibit II-2: Potentially Disqualifying Conflicts of Interest from the PAPPG, and
Collaborators and Other Affiliations Information in the PAPPG, which clarifies the collaborations that may be considered COIs.
If not explicitly mentioned below, you should also consider a COI defined by the preceding NSF practices to be a COI for review of an ACCESS allocation request.
Appointment as an AARC member requires awareness of COI situations that may arise during the evaluation of resource requests. A COI presumptively exists for an AARC member due to any of the following relationships:
Direct involvement in the request
Principal Investigator (PI), Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI), or other direct participation on the allocation request or project.
Direct involvement on any of the funding awards supporting the request.
Affiliations with a requester's institution
Current employment (formal or informal) within the same institution.
Any affiliation with the requester institution including, but not limited to, current membership on a visiting committee or similar body at the requester's institution, holder of any office, governing board membership, or relevant committee chairpersonship in the requester's institution.
Currently seeking employment with the institution.
Relationships with an Investigator or other person who has a personal, academic and/or financial interest in the resource request
Known family or marriage relationship.
Business or commercial partnership.
Present association as primary thesis advisor or thesis student or past association in such a capacity over the last ten years.
Professional collaboration involving research and publication over the past four years or as a collaborator on a separate, current resource request or allocated project.
Other relationships with the requester or the request
The interests of the following persons are treated as if they were the panel member's own:
Any relationship, such as close personal friendship, that might affect the member's judgments or be seen as doing so by a reasonable person familiar with the relationship.
The resource request lists the reviewer as a person who should not review the resource request.
Any other conflicts known to the panel member that would prevent the panel member from reviewing a project in a non-biased, fair, and objective way.
Less common conflicts of interest may arise in situations including but not limited to professional and personal relationship with a requester or requester's department; use of inside information or access to such information; financial, investment, or other ownership interests; use of confidential information; subcontracts with employees, their immediate families and their business associates; work with ACCESS contractors; involvement in legal actions against the Federal government and other sponsors; improper use of the ACCESS name or affiliation; and improper use of ACCESS facilities and resources.
The responsibilities of AARC members and procedures followed with regard to COIs in AARC activities are those of Disclosure, Avoidance, and Removal.
Disclosure. Prior to the assignment of reviewers, the ACCESS Allocation Coordinator will identify and record all known COIs between current resource requests and current AARC members. In some instances, a COI is known only to the individual panel member. Upon receiving review assignments, each panel member is responsible for immediately declaring any COI and bringing the matter promptly to the attention of the Allocation Coordinator. The Allocation Coordinator—as an objective, disinterested third party—determines how the matter should be handled and what additional steps, if any, to take. All reported COIs for each meeting are recorded.
Avoidance. Members should avoid all actual and perceived COIs. In the course of their duties with the AARC, members should avoid situations in which they can influence or appear to influence a decision or course of action, as well as any actions that may give monetary gain or personal benefit to themselves or to those with whom they are associated professionally and personally, as covered under the relationships discussed herein.
AARC members are not permitted to view submission details or reviews for any requests with which they have reported COIs. In listing the submitted requests, reviewers can only see that such requests exist and that they have a COI; this display helps each member know when they need to step outside during a review meeting.
Removal. When an AARC member is a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) on a resource request to be discussed at the current panel meeting, or a PI or Co-PI on any funding award(s) supporting the resource request, the conflicted member will not participate as a reviewer for that meeting. The conflicted panel member shall neither attend the AARC meeting to which the resource request was submitted nor review other resource requests submitted to the same meeting.
When an AARC member's resource request is below the threshold for requests to be discussed at the meeting, the COI is considered addressed since the request will not be discussed in-person at the meeting. The member may still attend and review requests for the meeting.
When the Allocation Coordinator has judged that another type of COI exists for an AARC member, the conflicted panel member shall not have access to the resource request, shall not be assigned as reviewer to the request, and shall leave the room during discussion of the resource request.
While most COIs should be identified before the meeting and before review assignments are made, potential COI questions may be raised during the meeting. In such a case, if the Allocations Coordinator and the Chair judge it to be a conflict, the COI will be recorded and the panelist will leave the room. Otherwise, the panelist may continue to participate in the discussions.
The ACCESS Allocation Coordinator and supporting ACCESS allocations staff members are required to ensure the smooth functioning of the AARC meetings and are presumed to be disinterested third parties with respect to all allocation requests. Additional ACCESS staff are permitted to attend and observe AARC deliberations in a non-reviewer capacity.
In addition, one staff member from each RP can be designated the “RP representative,” and RP representatives are permitted to attend and observe AARC deliberations in a non-reviewer capacity to support those deliberations when requested by AARC members. RP representatives are generally exempt from COI policies, unless the individual is directly involved in a resource request.
Aside from the ACCESS allocations staff and RP representatives, ACCESS and RP staff in attendance at AARC meetings must be aware of COI situations and are subject to the same COI rules as AARC members.
Active participation by non-reviewers in the deliberations or recommendations of the panel can disrupt the integrity of the impartial review process and must therefore be treated in the same manner as a COI. The meeting or session chair is responsible for monitoring ACCESS and RP participation and if the meeting or session chair judges that a COI exists for a ACCESS or RP representative or that the representative is actively participating in AARC deliberations, the conflicted representative shall be asked to leave the room during discussion of the resource request. The meeting or session chair can bring conflicted ACCESS or RP staff back into the room to solicit input as needed.