NCMAS 2016 Computational Resources

The National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme (NCMAS) is the premier, competitive program for allocation of high-performance computing resources for scientific research in Australia. NCMAS will allocate HPC resources to the following participating facilities for the 2016 calendar year.

System Facility Share Computing Time (KSU)
NCI: Raijin (Fujitsu) 15 % 75000
Pawsey Centre: Magnus (Cray) 35 % 100000
VLSCI: Avoca (IBM BlueGene/Q) 15 % 21500
Monash: MASSIVE (SF Visualisation) 10 % 1950
UQ: FlashLite (Xenon) 15 % 1930

Note that all references to computational resources will be in units of kilo-service-units; 1 KSU = 1000 service units (SU). Service units are scaled to be equivalent across all participating HPC facilities. 


Key dates for the NCMAS 2016 application round are listed in the table below.

Date Event
14/09/2015 (Mon)  Applications open
16/10/2015 (Fri) Applications close 17:00 AEST (5pm)
30/10/2015 (Fri) Technical assessments completed
25/11/2015 (Wed) Merit assessments completed
30/11/2015 - 01/12/2015 (Mon-Tue) Allocation Committee meeting
04/12/2015 (Fri) Applicants and facilities notified of outcomes


Chief Investigators

In keeping with guidelines for access to Commonwealth-funded research infrastructure, and relevant Australian Government legislation, Chief Investigators of NCMAS projects must be

  • Australia-based researchers
  • hold a substantive position at a higher-education institution or research institute (which are eligible to receive funds from the Australian Research Council or the National Health and Medical Research Council)
  • or an Australian publicly-funded research agency (e.g. CSIRO, BoM, Geoscience Australia, ANSTO, etc.)

A researcher undertaking a higher degree by research is not eligible to be a Chief Investigator on a NCMAS proposal.

Early Career Researchers and special allocations

A limited number of special allocations will be made available to Early Career Researchers (ECR), new appointments, or others who may otherwise not be competitive in the main NCMAS pool. These allocations are to enable such researchers to establish a presence and track record on the national facilities. They will be considered by the NCMAS merit allocation committee independently of the main NCMAS application pool. Special allocations will be a fixed award of 250 KSU per year. Proposals for special allocations should be a maximum of 1000 words, or approximately two pages in length. These allocations are highly competitive therefore recipients would be expected to hold or be competitive for a junior personal research fellowship, such as an ARC DECRA or NHMRC CDA. Researchers are eligible to apply for an Early Career Researcher award if they have been awarded a PhD within the last five years or, together with periods of significant career interruption, have been awarded a PhD within nine years of the closing time for submission of applications.

Proposal Guidelines

Assessment and allocation

The assessment of proposals will be based on a combination of technical and scientific merit (see selection criteria section) based on material provided in the proposal. All applicants are expected to provide a detailed justification of the resources requested, and are expected to demonstrate the capacity to utilise the requested HPC resources effectively. All requests must be proportional to the scientific merit of the proposal. The NCMAS Committee reserves the right to allocate all or part of the resources available, and all or part of any specific request.

Minimum request

Each facility will set a minimum threshold (core hours per year) for resource requests. The minimum request value for each facility is listed in the application form. Applicants requiring less than the minimum at a selected facility are encouraged to approach their home institution, regional HPC consortia in their home state (i.e. Intersect, QCIF, eRSA, TPAC), or partner schemes on the national facilities held by their institution with their resource request.

Minimum allocation

Each facility has set a minimum value for NCMAS allocations, as listed in the table below. Proposals assessed as not requiring the minimum allocation at a selected facility will not be awarded resources at that facility. 

System Minimum Allocation (KSU)
NCI: Raijin (Fujitsu) 100
Pawsey Centre: Magnus (Cray) 250
VLSCI: Avoca (IBM BlueGene/Q) 20
Monash: MASSIVE (SF Visualisation) 20
UQ: FlashLite (Xenon) 20

Maximum request

There will be no formal maximum limit on the resources requested in a NCMAS proposal. This is to enable researchers to prepare a single proposal that can be considered by multiple allocation schemes, and which reflects their true need for HPC resources. A request for more than 4000 KSU per year would normally be associated with teams of experienced researchers who can clearly demonstrate a track record of efficient use of HPC facilities. Note that any proposal deemed not to have fully justified the associated request will be rejected.

Maximum allocation

The maximum allocation that will be made by the NCMAS will depend on the demand for resources and the relative merit of alternative proposals. The expected maximum allocation for 2016 is 10,000 KSU per year (approximately 5 per cent of the combined resource.) Allocations of more than 10,000 KSU per year will only be made to exceptional projects involving researchers with an outstanding record of success.

Quantised allocations

Computing resources will be allocated in specific increments (quanta) as indicated on the NCMAS application form. This is to simplify the work of the allocation committee.

Proposal length

The length and rigour of a proposal should be proportional to the requested allocation. Guidelines for the length of proposals are listed in the table below. Note that 500 words is approximately one page of single-spaced, 12-point type, with 2 cm margins.

Resource Request (KSU) Proposal Length (words)
Greater than 4000 3000
1000–4000 2000
100-1000 1000

Conditions of Use

All NCMAS applicants (Lead Chief Investigators) will be required to sign and return a certification for conditions of use and compliance with recent Commonwealth legislation, in particular, the Autonomous Sanctions Act (2011, Cth) and the Defence Trade Controls Act (2012, Cth), which impose additional requirements for supporting documentation and certification of project researchers in some circumstances. Applicants should review the current conditions of use available on facility websites (follow links to the individual facility web sites.)

Email Addresses

To ensure compliance with relevant Australian Government legislation, all researchers named in NCMAS applications must register and use an official institutional email address for all correspondence. Chief Investigators and researchers who currently use a non-institutional email address (for example, or must register an official institutional email address before their NCMAS project application can be accepted and processed. Please note that it is the responsibility of the Lead Chief Investigator to ensure that all project staff register and use official email addresses.


Assessment Criteria

Weight Assessment Area

Project quality and innovation

  • Significance of the research
  • Originality and innovative nature of the computational framework
  • Advancement of knowledge through the goals of the proposed research
  • Potential for the research to contribute to Australian Science and Research Priorities


  • Research record and performance relative to opportunity (publications, research funding, recognition and esteem metrics)


  • Adequacy of the time commitment of investigators to undertake the research and utilise the resources successfully
  • Suitability of the system to support the research, and an appropriate and efficient use of the system
  • Capacity to realise the goals of the project within the resources request
  • Appropriate track record in the use of high-performance computing systems, relative to the scale of the resources requested

Benefit and impact

  • Ability of the project to generate impactful outcomes and produce innovative economic, environmental and social benefits to Australia and the international community


Use plain English and comply strictly with the proposal format and submission requirements. Use Australian English spelling.

All pages of additional text (uploaded in PDF form) must be as follows:

  • Black type, or occasional coloured type for highlighting purposes
  • Single column
  • White A4 size paper with at least 0.5 cm margin on each side, top and bottom
  • Text must be size 12 point Times New Roman or an equivalent size before converting to PDF format and must be legible to assessors. Otherwise, a highly legible font type must be used: Arial, Courier, Palatine and Helvetica subject to them being an equivalent size to 12 point Times New Roman. Variants such as mathematical typesetting languages may also be used.
  • References only can be in 10 point Times New Roman or equivalent
  • Adhere strictly to page limits designated for each part of the proposal.
  • Applicants should note that colour graphs, colour photographs, detailed graphics, and grey scale objects may be reproduced in black and white.
  • Additional text uploaded as PDF may appear slightly reduced in size due to NCMAS formatting of attachments. Additional text uploaded in PDF form should be directly generated rather than scanned to maximise the quality of reproduction.
  • The NCMAS Secretariat reserves the right to seek an original electronic copy of the Proposal to determine that the text meets these requirements.


A condition of accepting an allocation of resources through the NCMAS is that applicants acknowledge both the scheme and the specific facility used in all publications and presentations of the associated work. For example: 

This work was supported by computational resources provided by the Australian Government through <facility_name> under the National Computational Merit Allocation Scheme.

If you have questions about the application process please contact the NCMAS Secretariat at

Best regards,

NCMAS Secretariat