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Research Technologies – including Advanced Biomedical Information Technology Core - Policy on prioritization of activities and use of resources

Updated December 1, 2013

1.   Policy Statement

Staff members of the Research Technologies Division (RT) of UITS – a Cyberinfrastructure and Service Center affiliated with the Pervasive Technology Institute – as members of the IU community all adhere to all IU policies related to use of IT resources confidentiality. These policies are accessible from http://protect.iu.edu/cybersecurity/policies. None of these policies specifically speaks to prioritization of activities in service of IU by the Research Technologies Division of UITS in general, or by the Advanced Biomedical Information Technology Core in particular.

Indiana University has a long and proud tradition of open access to its research computing facilities, going back to policies set in the 1950s by the first director appointed to head up research computing at IU, Marshall Wrubel. UITS has historically avoided ‘nuisance fees’ for research services, and has provided services as best possible to all who asked. UITS has also worked aggressively with IU faculty to bring grant funding for hardware and staff resources to IU. As a result, we have been able to expand our cyberinfrastructure resources (hardware and personnel) more rapidly than many of our peers and competitors.

IU has a particularly large and diverse group of users of its advanced cyberinfrastructure and the university’s research and creative activities have been broadly enhanced by its investment in cyberinfrastructure. However, one result of this situation is that UITS faces more demand for computing resources, consulting, and programming staff than it can possibly meet and the current economic situation makes it impossible to expand resources to meet demand. Furthermore, our history shows that whenever we expand resources this spurs even greater demand. This document sets out policies relevant to prioritization of activities and use of resources.

2.   Commitments of resource as part of grant budgets or formal commitments in support of grant awards

Commitments of resource as part of grant budgets or formal commitments in support of grant awards will be made via internal proposals, approved at the relevant level within ABITC/UITS (Director and Office of the Vice President for Information Technology Finance Office, commitments < $25,000; Associate Dean and OVPIT Finance Office, commitments between $25,000 and $100,000; Vice President for Information Technology, commitments > $100,000). Commitments of effort through subcontracts and/or funding allocations are approved via the established processes for routing of grant proposal and grant award documents. Such commitments will be honored and fulfilled without fail unless some factor beyond the control of the Advanced Biomedical Information Technology Core or Research Technologies requires invocation of a force majeure clause.

3.   Allocation of CPU time, storage space, and consulting / programming effort funded by OVPIT base budgets

Early in spring semester each year, UITS will announce an internal proposal process similar to the existing process used by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Faculty Research Support Program.

UITS will establish allocation thresholds – above which a formal request for an allocation will be required. These thresholds are as follows:

  • 500,000 CPU (wall-clock) hours per year
  • 50 TB in disk storage
  • 100 TB of tape storage per year
  • One person month per year in extended consulting/programming effort

Allocation thresholds will be adjusted periodically. The default allocation levels for computation indicated above are, for example, such that fewer than 25 IU faculty members would exceed them during the current FY.

Researchers who expect to use more than the default allocations listed above will be asked to submit a proposal requesting those resources. The proposal process will be a 2 page proposal and standard NSF-format mini-bios for the PI and any Co-PIs identified. Appendix 1 shows the online form for requesting extended consulting effort.

UITS staff will work with a committee of leading faculty to review proposals with one of the following outcomes:

  • A request is viewed as highly meritorious, and can be fulfilled using IU resources
  • A request is viewed as highly meritorious, but is beyond what can be fulfilled using IU resources alone. In such cases part but not the entire request will be fulfilled with IU resources. In addition the review committee will provide a recommendation that the PI work with UITS staff to submit a request for resources to the XSEDE, Open Science Grid, DOE InCite program, Amazon Web Services Research Grants, or other national resource
  • A request is viewed as other than highly meritorious, and resources in excess of the default allocations will not be awarded. In this case faculty will be invited to apply for resources on XSEDE or Open Science Grid and will be supported in such efforts by UITS staff. In the case of supercomputing time, however, the one thing we never want to do is have our supercomputers sit idle. Rather than refusing resources, researchers in this category would still be able to run on UITS systems if they wished, but only at very low priority relative to other researchers.

Recognizing that sometimes emergencies or particularly high priority needs arise on an unpredictable basis, OVPIT and UITS would retain the ability to allocate CPU time (or priority access to all job queues) to important projects that arise on short notice, but under an MOU via which faculty members commit to requesting allocations on the XSEDE or other facilities.

Likewise recognizing that new faculty come to IU each summer, and that unanticipated needs arise, we would anticipate allocating less than the total amount of resources (consulting and systems) available each year, so that we retain the flexibility to react to needs as they arise.

The faculty review committee includes a representative group of faculty from the College of Arts and Science, IU School of Music, School of Informatics and Computing, at least one regional campus, and other academic units as appropriate. We propose to include at least one faculty member from a regional campus.

UITS will provide assistance and advice in preparation of proposals to this internal process. The goal of this policy is to have proposals be of high quality so that the proposals facilitate the best use of valuable IU resources and taxpayer funds.

4.   Relationship to Empowering People

This policy supports achievement of the following Empowering People Actions:

  • Recommendation A1
    • Action 4: Cyberinfrastructure. IU should continue to advance its local cyberinfrastructure, participation in national cyberinfrastructure, and its efforts to win federal funding of cyberinfrastructure programs that enhance IU’s research capabilities. (RT leads)
    • Action 5: Philosophy of abundance. IU should pursue strategies that approximate a philosophy of abundance, within reason, towards unmetered availability of basic IT services, support, and infrastructure for creative activity, storage, computation, communication, and other activities fundamental to the work of the university via any appropriate sourcing strategy. (EI leads; RT supporting)
    • Action 6: Leveraging partnerships. IU should continue its highly successful program of relationships with hardware, software, and services vendors, and seek additional partnerships and creative exchanges that provide mutual benefits. (S leads; RT supporting)
  • Recommendation A4
    • Action 16: External funding. OVPIT should continue to lead and expand its efforts to effectively partner with academic units, campuses, administrative units, or individual investigators for external funding opportunities. (PTI leads; RT supporting)
  • Recommendation A7
    • Action 25: Research into IT. IU should support and pursue research into information technology itself. IT professionals and faculty should seek partnership opportunities for scholarly publication and invention disclosure that document meritorious research and discovery. (PTI leads; RT supporting)
  • Recommendation C15
    • Action 70: IT-enabled research. IU should purposefully select areas of great and timely promise for strategic development of IT-enabled research, scholarship, and/or creative activity. (PTI leads)
    • Action 71: IT-enabled research resources. IU should identify a base of resources to provide both initial and sustained investments in selected areas for IT-enabled research, scholarship, and/or creative activity. This may include reallocating current resources and developing new ones, including endowments, grants, and/or additional fees. (RT leads)

5.   Policy authors

Craig Stewart, Associate Dean, Research Technologies & Executive Director, Pervasive Technology Institute

Matthew Link, Director, Systems, Research Technologies

David Hancock, Manager, High Performance Systems, Research Technologies

Robert Henschel. Manager, Scientific Appliations and Performance Tuning, Research Technologies

6.   Policy approved by

IUPUI Faculty Council Information Technology Subcommittee, 2010

IUB Faculty Council Information Technology Subcommittee, 2010

7.   Appendix 1. Form for applying for Extended Consultation Support from Research Technologies and the Advanced Biomedical Information Technology Core

The Research Technologies Division of UITS, affiliated with the Pervasive Technology Institute and including the Advanced Biomedical Information Technology Core, supports innovation and new discoveries by IU researchers through consulting services and collaborative research and development. The Research Technologies Division (RT) works with IU researchers using IU's advanced information technology infrastructure to enable new discoveries and enhance IU's competitiveness for external support. RT offers in-depth consulting to IU researchers in bioinformatics, parallel programming and use of IU supercomputers, statistical and mathematical computing, and Unix systems administration. Experts in the relevant software technologies and research concerns, who are well versed in the research process, staff these areas.

The Research Technologies Division of UITS offers, generally, four types of allocated resources:

  • CPU time
  • Short consultations. Short consulting interactions typically involve solving one or a few specific problems, and are often conducted by telephone or email. In order to support a large number of students and faculty with a limited number of staff, we must focus primarily on getting people started and on providing short-term consulting.
  • Extended consultations. Extended consultations involve longer collaborative efforts -- typically from half of a day to three months. Such consulting efforts permit completion of a small to moderate-scale project, or a pilot project in an effort to obtain grant funding for large-scale projects. The first step in establishing an extended consulting agreement is to meet with a staff member of the Research Technologies Division of UITS; the second is to complete an extended consulting agreement.
  • Grant-funded collaborations. UIST staff members are regularly involved in grant-funded research, where external funding makes it possible to devote several months or years to a particular problem. Such projects often develop out of extended consulting interactions, and sometimes directly in response to grant solicitations. A good first step in starting such an interaction is to contact a staff member of the Research and Academic Computing Division (e.g., send email to rac at indiana.edu).

Guidelines for and terms of Research Technologies extended consulting services

  • Extended consulting, by Research Technologies, in support of academic research is generally provided without charge, subject to availability of staff time. The ABITC, typically, does not provide free extended consultation. Grant support is either arranged as a percent effort covering salary, fringe benefits and Institutional Cost Recovery, or at the flat Core pay rate of $79/hour, although the latter approach is not the preferred method. ABITC or RT staff may provide services for free when the researcher is engaged in exploratory research to generate preliminary data with the intent of applying for a grant, and when staff is available.  In return for this free support, ABITC expects that our staff will be included and supported as part of the submitted grant. We do not provide free consulting for projects that you arrange privately with entities outside IU. However, you may arrange for contract consulting or programming for such projects, if such can be done within our mission of academic support. If consulting interactions involve expendable materials, their cost is your responsibility.
  • Staff can help with all aspects of your projects, but usually do not engage in algorithm development, or do routine system administration. Extended consulting projects must have a definite goal.
  • UITS adhere firmly to all IU policies, including those of the Indiana University Research & Technology Corporation (http://iurtc.iu.edu/policies/index.shtml).

A condition of extended consulting agreements is that the copyright and authorship acknowledgements never be removed from the code. In the case of minor contributions to the code, acknowledgement is done without UITS employees or UITS becoming a participant in ownership of the intellectual property.

  • If UITS staff contribute intellectually to the development of important pieces of computer code, including major modifications of existing code or the creation of entirely new code modules, UITS is considered a participant in the creation of intellectual property as described in the Indiana University Research and Technology Corporation (http://iurtc.iu.edu/policies/index.shtml).
  • Software developed is often released as open source under one of the several applicable open source licenses. UITS endorses and supports this so long as the open source distribution is approved by IURTC per its existing policies and so long as copyright and authorship attributions are as indicated above.
  • In exchange for extended consulting services being provided at no direct charge (that is, as a base-funded service of UITS), your obligations are as follows:
  • Provide on request, and at least once annually, a listing of publications stemming from, based on, or facilitated by extended consulting services provided by UITS must acknowledge any appropriate grant support (as described in https://kb.iu.edu/data/anwt.html), as well as consulting support provided by UITS (preferably including acknowledgement of the consultant(s) you work with by name).
  • Provide on request, and at least once annually, a listing of Web pages presenting research stemming from, based upon, or facilitated by extended consulting services provided by UITS must acknowledge any appropriate grant support (as described in https://kb.iu.edu/data/anwt.html). If possible, a link to the Web site of the service you used is greatly appreciated.
  • You agree to respond to periodic requests for information about your publications and research information presented online so that we may include citations in our online database of Publications about or enabled by RT Services and/or Grants to UITS/RT. 


To engage RT staff/resources for extended consultation, please fill out this form entirely. 

(PDF Version) (Word Version)


8.   Appendix 2. ABITC Implementation Plan for Prioritization of Work and Timely Completion

The ABITC is usually involved with multiple projects at any single time and careful allocation of resources is necessary to meet diverse project requirements and deadlines.  The project deliverables are typically captured in a Memo of Understanding (MOU) to delineate the scope, timeline, and budget for the project. In general, the ABITC will prioritize effort and resources, in consultation with the client, to balance the deliverables for a particular project, and overarching ABITC goals,

The ABITC strives to meet or exceed the RT policy of on-time project completion. In pursuit of this goal, the ABITC will provide timely project updates to the Client, and discuss any deviations from the MOU that could affect the delivery timeline.  If any deviations are necessary, the ABITC will shift resources and personnel to maintain project delivery commitments.  The MOU will detail the scope, resources, timeline, and personnel to be involved in the project. If the project requires complex coordination with other groups, the MOU will detail the commitments, and procedures necessary to achieve this coordination. The MOU will also specify project roles, communication procedures, and any other tactical procedures necessary for successful project conclusion.  The MOU will also specify escalation procedures in order to ensure that an external party with administrative control can enforce ABITC adherence to the MOU. If any of these factors detailed in the MOU need to be changed, the Manager or Director of ABITC, and the Client will discuss the altered circumstances, arrive at a mutually satisfactory arrangement, and document the changes in the MOU.

The ABITC strives to develop secure and stable applications that can host HIPAA-aligned data in a safe and secure manner.  Our practices are meant to minimize risk for the individual project, and to the entire University cyberinfrastructure as a whole and are an over-riding concern. In emergency situations, the ABITC may have to temporarily shift resources, on a priority basis, to deal with a security issue.  The Core will notify all affected parties and discuss approaches whereby requirements and deadlines can still be achieved.

Revised 12/1/2013