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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 Your PI must have an existing account in order to appear as a sponsor. If they do not appear, you should ask them to sign up for an account first. Once you’ve signed up, your PI sponsor will receive an e-mail containing a link to approve your account. Once the PI has approved the request, your account will be created and you will receive notification emails with information on getting started. Please note that if you signed up as an external user, your request must be manually vetted and so may take slightly longer.
Your cluster usage will be tied to your lab’s fairshare and will be billed to your school on a quarterly basis. See also: HCSPH Overview

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 the high performance computing cluster and storage resources, as well as support from the entire FAS Research Computing team and local office hours. More specifically, by signing up each account’s owner has:

  • Access to Harvard’s largest research computing cluster. FAS RC operates more than 82,000 cores and over 40 petabytes of storage. Every user has access to a significant portion of this power through several partitions/queues.
  • Option to 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 HCSPH for research computing consulting and job help.
  • 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 computers 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 can 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. May I request a face to face meeting with a FAS Research Computing specialist to address questions regarding research computing?

A. Yes. You can contact us, but bear in mind you also have support from the HCSPH Bioinformatics Core which is located on the Longwood campus and well-versed in the use of our cluster. Our primary method of issue help and resolution is via our ticketing system, but we would also be happy to meet in person to discuss large projects or transitions. Please feel free to contact us or visit us at weekly HCSPH office hours.

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

A. Yes. Contact us and we can discuss your data storage requirements. We strongly encourage you to contact FAS Research Computing when you submit a grant application. We can host secure data assigned to level 1, 2, or 3 treatment. Please note that Harvard requires all such data to have an IRB determination prior to transfer to the FAS RC cluster. FAS RC will need a copy of the IRB as well as any DUA covering such data.

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

A. Yes, if it is DSL3 or below. 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.

See: Data and Data Use Agreements (DUA)

Q. Is there a researchers handbook for HSPH projects?

Yes. See: Office of Regulatory Affairs and Research Compliance – Investigator Manual

Q. Can FAS Research Computing help me transition from the HCSPH 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 us 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 based on actual usage of the Harvard University Faculty of Arts & Sciences Research Computing shared use facility (FAS RC) and any additional resources, such as additional storage or virtual machines. Users of the cluster gain access to the resources hosted in the FAS RC environment, including expert consulting help coupled with extensive resources,  and numerous software modules and applications. A full description of FAS RC computing resources available to researchers can be found at”

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

A. Yes. The there is no up-front cost for such accounts, but the user’s use of the cluster (in CPU hours) will be be applied to the PI’s lab group fairshare and billed to the school on a quarterly basis. The collaborator’s account needs to be approved by and attached to an existing HCSPH PI’s FASRC account. Please note in the account request that this is an outside collaborator (choose ‘EXTERNAL’). Should the PI leave HCSPH, the collaborator’s access would also end unless it is transferred to another PI’s account and billing. It is the PI’s responsibility to notify us when the collaborator’s access should be withdrawn.

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

A. A large selection of software (including SAS and Stata) is already licensed at FAS Research Computing and is therefore provided at no additional cost. Additional commercial software you require may require your paying licensing fees to the vendor. Contact us 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 us and we can discuss your computing needs, coordinate obtaining a quote, and install the new hardware. Note: As of the 2019 cluster refresh and our move to water-cooling, new nodes can be added in to the cluster only at certain times of the year.

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 us as soon as possible during normal hours (M-F 9am-5pm) and we can discuss your computing needs and how we can shift other resources temporarily. We can often temporarily dedicate part of HCSPH’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 see our Temporary Class Accounts page for instructions.

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 HCSPH equipment and FAS storage facilities and helped optimize novel algorithms. Many of our success stories can be seen on our Feature Stories pages or in publications citing the FAS RC cluster.

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