External Use Scheme for Australian Universities
Following the acquisition of the VP-100 in 1987,
the University undertook to provide ten per cent of the capacity
of the vector supercomputers free of charge to researchers at
other Australian universities. This amounts to around 800 hours
per year, which at commercial rates (which some universities have
paid in the past to bureaux for supercomputer time) would cost
approximately $1 million per year at times during the period since
Until 1993, the ANU did not involve itself in deciding
the relative merits of projects from external universities. Over
the first five years of this External Use Scheme, a formula provided
by the Australian Vice-Chancellors' Committee was used to allocate
time in bulk to each participating university which then informed
the ANU of its own sub-allocations to individual projects.
By the end of 1992, it was clear that the system needed modification. The number of projects grew to be too large, with the result that each project received an inadequate grant. For example, in 1992, there were 81 projects registered with over 109 users at 24 universities (not counting a further 35 course-work accounts). This is an average of only 10 hours per project. This is grossly inadequate for serious production work and was perceived as such by users and potential users.
Therefore, after discussions with a number of external
users and coordinators, the scheme was altered in 1993 with the
aim of encouraging a small number of larger-scale projects. Smaller
projects that made use of special features on the VP such as software
packages, large memory and rapid turnaround of urgent work continue
to be encouraged, and resources for educational activities are
The Supercomputer Time Allocation Committee, chaired
by Professor W Levick continued to allocate the ten percent of
the VP resources reserved for external users guided by the same
principles used for internal users.
At the two meetings of the Supercomputer Time Allocation
Committee 17 and 15 external projects were supported. Guided
by international and national referees, the Committee determined
that almost all of the proposals were of an exceptionally high
standard and found it very difficult to reduce the number of supported
projects to the earlier target of around six to eight. Nine of
the external projects were independently supported by the Australian
Table 1 lists the external projects which were supported.
25 projects involving 51 researchers are listed. By
over allocating resources the committee has found that the target
of 10 per cent reserved for the External Scheme can be met. Omitted
from the table are six projects which were given small provisional
grants and which made little or no use of the grant. Detailed
descriptions of the projects can be found in Appendix B.