ACCESS Allocations Puts a Focus on DEI

By Megan Johnson, NCSA
Two young researchers doing work on a computer

It’s not uncommon for researchers to feel their project isn’t right for high-end compute resources. Maybe their datasets aren’t particularly large, or they only need a small amount of computing time for classroom activities. When they think of supercomputing centers, they think of huge projects that use machines described with words like petascale and teraflops. With all that jargon, it might be hard to see how your project could benefit from what ACCESS offers. That’s why the ACCESS Allocations Service has implemented a new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) plan. Their goal is to make sure it’s clear that ACCESS resources are ready to serve a diverse community of researchers, each with different cyberinfrastructure needs.

Not all projects need tens of millions of hours on the fastest supercomputers in the ACCESS portfolio. Some projects require modest resources to analyze a dataset that won’t fit in the memory of their campus resources or to use an application on a problem that no longer fits on their laptop. With ACCESS, all types of projects are welcome and the researchers leading them are encouraged to apply for allocations, regardless of the size or scope of their project.

One of the new goals among the ACCESS teams is to make it easier to find resources in accordance with the Allocations Service’s vision that national cyberinfrastructure “must be accessible and 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.”

In that spirit, The ACCESS Allocations team’s DEI plan addresses some hurdles in requesting allocations for smaller projects. Stephen Deems, principal investigator for Allocations, stresses that one goal, in particular, is their first focus to “implement an efficient, scalable, and simplified request and review framework” to reduce real and perceived barriers in connecting researchers to resources.

The DEI plan is meant to amplify the message that ACCESS is open to all types of research projects. By utilizing inclusive language with less jargon, the hope is that ACCESS looks like a place for the enormous diversity and depth of projects being worked on daily at institutions large and small, in research labs or classrooms. The Allocations team wants researchers, especially those who might have felt ACCESS isn’t for them, to feel like they belong in ACCESS.

“As part of our comprehensive DEI plan, we have attended outreach events, developed and delivered facilitated DEI discussions and supporting materials to the ACCESS Allocations Review Committee as part of the review process, conducted community focus groups, ACCESS DEI policy review, cross-track collaboration, and the developed DEI metrics and goals,” said Agbeli Ameko of NCAR, DEI Facilitator for the ACCESS Allocations Service.

Ameko is leading focus groups and seeking students, faculty, and staff from Minority Serving Institutions to participate. Please register your interest to participate here.

Parts of the plan are already in action. Since ACCESS began, allocations have expanded the list of eligible projects to include projects led by graduate students and by increasing the number of resources available to “small” projects by order of magnitude. By simplifying the proposal requirements, Allocations has removed some of the barriers for researchers with more modest projects who may have been turned off by the need for highly detailed proposals typically required for projects of a large scope.

The new allocation policies expedite access to national cyberinfrastructure for groups with modest resource requirements. No longer do lengthy proposals need to be crafted to receive an allocation. As a researcher’s (or a research group’s) needs grow, the documentation and justification required also scale to ensure these resources are utilized efficiently.

Stephen Deems, PI for Allocations, ACCESS

The Allocations Service continues to incorporate community engagement and feedback to refine their process to make a more inclusive experience for all project stakeholders. Using a holistic approach, the Allocations team has been engaged in robust outreach efforts, and they are maintaining a highly visible presence at conferences nationwide to encourage researchers to ask questions. Future goals include creating outreach materials and presentations to reach those communities that might not be aware of the opportunities they qualify for with ACCESS.

If you have a project that would benefit from cyberinfrastructure resources – regardless of size – we encourage you to explore the Allocations “Getting Started” page to learn more.

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