Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health + FAS Research Computing Q&A

Q. What do I need to do to sign up for a FAS Research Computing account?

A. Complete the sign up form process at https://portal.rc.fas.harvard.edu/request/account/new. Your PI will receive an e-mail containing a link to approve your account.

Q. What type of support am I receiving for signing up to access the FAS Research Computing cluster?

A. We have experience in numerous aspects of research computing support, including software installation and troubleshooting, performance optimization, and storing large and/or secure data. With your account, you'll receive access to cluster compute and storage resources as well as support from the entire FAS Research Computing team. More specifically, by signing up each account’s owner has:

 Access to Harvard’s largest research computing environment, Odyssey. Odyssey has more than 78,000 CPUs and over 35 petabytes of storage.

 Obtain a personalized letter of support from the FAS Research Computing for your grant submissions. The letter will describe the FAS Research Computing environment and describe the level of support and expertise that the team will be able to provide for that particular application.

 Access to local support at HSPH for research computing consulting.

 Access to consultation from the whole FAS Research Computing team to plan computational requirements, acquisition of hardware, data storage and dissemination, CPU, etc.

Q. Why should I sign up for a FAS Research Computing account instead of buying my own research computing cluster and storing the data in my office?

A. The FAS Research Computing team is one of the best in the world and has access to a scalable amount of computing power and data storage. They will act as your collaborators and assist you in developing personalized solutions for your high performance computing needs. They can make your grant application much more competitive by providing letter of support and the necessary expertise and infrastructure. 

Q. If I am a PhD or ScD student at HSPH, may I access FAS Research Computing resources for free?

A. Yes. Student accounts are not charged for cluster access. A student is defined as anyone enrolled in a Harvard University undergraduate or graduate course of study, such as a Master's or doctoral program. This does not include postdocs, researchers, faculty at other academic institutions or anyone else who is not specifically a Harvard University student unless prior arrangements have been made with Research Computing management.

Q. May I request a face to face meeting with a FAS Research Computing specialist to address questions regarding research computing?

A. Yes. We often use e-mail and other electronic methods to coordinate Research Computing needs, but we would also be happy to meet in person to discuss large projects or transitions. We also have regular office hours on Wednesdays from 12pm - 3pm at 38 Oxford Street, room 206.

Q. Can FAS Research Computing help me with the storage of large and secure data?

A. Yes. Contact rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu and we can discuss your data storage requirements. We strongly encourage you to contact Research Computing when you submit a grant application. We can host secure data assigned to level 1, 2, or 3 treatment.

Q. I have secure data stored at HSPH and need to use the HSPH cluster to analyze the data. Can my secure data transition to FAS Research Computing?

A. Yes. First we will need to review your DUA. Most DUAs say that you can store your data within Harvard, so we should be able to move your secure data to FAS and meet the same security requirements without modifying your DUA. If not, we will be working with you and your data provider to revise the DUA accordingly.

Q. Can FAS Research Computing help me transition from the HSPH Research Computing environment to FAS Research Computing environment?

A. Yes. We will provide you with instructions that will cover the majority of use cases and migration steps. If you do own your own IT hardware or have sensitive data we can help with the transition to FAS Research Computing. Also feel free to contact rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu and we can discuss your needs during and after the transition.

Q. Is there a language that I can use in my grants submissions to budget the cost for access the FAS Research Computing?

A. Yes, see example below. Please get in touch with us as you are developing a grant application. The FAS Research Computing will also provide a personalized letter of support for your application. The language below can be further tailored to your needs.

"Computing Costs are requested to provide researchers with access to the Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing shared use facility (FAS RC). A $3,000 fee per FTE per year is charged for access to the FAS RC. This fee applies to each account and provides users with access to resources hosted in the FAS RC environment, including expert consulting help coupled with extensive resources, such as over 35 petabytes of storage, 78,000 processing cores, and numerous software modules and applications. A full description of FAS RC computing resources available to researchers can be found at http://rc.fas.harvard.edu."

Q. Why do I need to pay 3K per year per account to access FAS Research Computing?

A. HSPH has signed a MOU with FAS Research Computing to access their infrastructure and expertise. FAS Research Computing is managing the largest high performance computing cluster at Harvard and they have recently transitioned to the MGHPCC facility in Holyoke, MA where they have access to almost an unlimited amount of data storage space with very competitive cost (http://www.mghpcc.org/). As part of the MOU, HSPH has hired one additional FTE that has joined the FAS Research Computing team. The cost of 3K is to recover the cost of this FTE. We do believe that this is the most cost effective way to allow HSPH investigators to access a wealth of FAS Research Computing expertise, purchase disk space and computing power at the lowest cost on their grants. After you sign up, for a cost that is comparable to a laptop, you will not need to worry about anything else. We also now have concrete evidence that highlighting this collaboration on your grant application increases the chance of getting funded.

Q. Can a HCSPH PI sponsor and pay for an outside collaborator to have an account on the cluster?

A. Yes. The standard account fee ($3,000/yr billed in one year increments, non-prorated) applies to such accounts. The collaborator's account needs to be approved by and attached to an existing HCSPH PI's Odyssey account. Please note in the account request that this is an outside collaborator. Should the PI leave HCSPH, the collaborator's access would also end unless it is transferred to another PI's account and billing.

Q. Do I need to pay for software licenses at the FAS Research Computing?

A. Most software (including SAS and Stata) is already licensed at FAS Research Computing and is therefore provided at no additional cost. Additional commercial software can be added on a case-by-case basis, depending on demand. Contact rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu and we can discuss your software needs.

Q. May I invest in more resources for the FAS Research Computing cluster by purchasing additional nodes to  increase computing power and decrease waiting time?

A. Yes. Contact rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu and we can discuss your computing needs, coordinate obtaining a quote, and install the new hardware.

Q. If I am facing a deadline where I need more computing power for a short period of time, can FAS Research Computing help me?

A. Yes. Contact rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu and we can discuss your computing needs and how we can shift other resources temporarily. We can often temporarily dedicate part of HSPH's computing resources at FAS Research Computing to your project, or obtain permission to borrow computing capacity normally reserved for other schools or researchers.

Q. If I am teaching a class on computing, can I ask FAS Research Computing to open a temporary account for my students to run their jobs on the cluster?

A. Yes. Please send a list containing each student's first name, last name, and e-mail address to rchelp@rc.fas.harvard.edu.

Q. Why is the cost for accessing the FAS Research Computing cluster spread equally across all the grants that support my salary, when I only use high performance research computing for one of these projects? May I charge only a specific grant for access to FAS Research Computing instead?

A. Yes. The funds, percentages, and amounts are merely guidelines based on salary allocations for the past quarter. It is understood that not all funds require the use of research computing. PIs should work with their grant managers to allocate the cluster fee to the appropriate fund(s).

Q. Can you please provide examples of how FAS Research Computing has been able to help our PIs with research computing and/or data storage issues?

A. The FAS Research Computing environment can provide customized support for almost any project. While the storage space, compute resources and available software are sufficient for the majority of work, many research projects require a more specialized setup. The FAS Research Computing team has provided assistance in deploying and configuring servers, set up databases for large scale data sets, automated data transfer between HSPH equipment and FAS storage facilities and helped optimize novel algorithms. Many of our success stories can be seen on our Feature Stories pages.

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