I’m back with the follow up from last week’s post XRAC Meetings a.k.a Quarterly Gorge Fests (part 1).
Monday morning starts early… with breakfast available beginning at 7 a.m. The breakfast buffet usually includes pastries, eggs, bacon, sausage, yogurt, fruit, and sometimes grits and French toast! Reviewers and XSEDE site representatives trickle in to wake up with their coffee, eat and get settled until 8 am which is when the meeting starts.
The entire group stays together for the morning to hear presentations of the proposals falling into the Plenary review session. What constitutes a Plenary proposal you ask? Plenary requests are the big requests for the current request period and they typically include 10 million or more service units. However, service unit cut off can fluctuate from meeting to meeting, but 10 million is where it sits right now.
This is also when the meeting really starts to get interesting, since the reviewers are adequately caffeinated at this point and proposals are presented to the entire board. The reviewers take their review responsibilities very seriously and really try to be fair and honest with their reviews. The length of each presentation varies, but I can tell you as an observer, that the good proposals require less discussion, because everything that the reviewers need to make their recommendation is included. What constitutes a good proposal you ask? A good proposal is well written, includes a clear computation plan, clear justification of the requested resources, detailed scaling data, and uses efficient use of the requested resources.
Once we get through the Plenary proposals, we usually take a short break, and split into two smaller groups that are more science specific for the “smaller” requests. This break of course also includes more food – usually snacks appropriate for 10 a.m. At this particular meeting we had fruit, assorted yogurts, granola, trail mix and fruit Napoleons & assorted mini fruit tarts.
I’d like to say that the smaller groups move faster through the proposals but that isn’t always the case, since they evaluate all of the proposals the same way. We continue presenting and evaluating proposals until lunch time, when we take a much needed break.
At this meeting we had a little Italy themed lunch complete with antipasto platter, Caprese and Ceasar salads, chicken Vesuvio, baked rigatoni, beef Pizzaiola, fettuccini alfredo, vegetarian lasagna and of course assorted mini Italian desserts.
Once the lunch break is over we continue on in our smaller groups. Around 2pm there’s an afternoon snack. We’ve eaten 4 times during the course of 7 hours! Now do you understand why this meeting is a ‘Gorge Fest’? We enjoyed soft pretzels and Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream bars. Depending on how many proposals there are and how long the discussion goes in each of the groups we can usually wrap things up around 3 pm. This is where the reviewers jobs end and the allocations team really starts.
For each request period each XSEDE site submits a total of how many service units are available. The allocations team, led by Ken Hackworth, have to take a look at the total awards for each XSEDE resource and determine if any additional adjustments need to be made. When the reviewers make their award recommendations, they do it purely based on the proposal, not on available services units. So at the end of the meeting there could be a resource that has a total recommended award totally over the amount that is available. This actually happens more often than it doesn’t. So the allocations team spends some time making sure that none of the resources are over allocated and the researchers get as much of the reviewer recommended service units as possible.
This process usually takes us into the late afternoon early evening. At this point most reviewers have left to catch their flights home, and all that’s left is the allocations team and a few reviewers that didn’t have to go home right away. So what do we do once we’re done with the meeting you ask? Well, we eat again. We usually venture out of the hotel and for this meeting we took it to an whole new level. Since we didn’t quite have enough to eat already we went to Texas de Brazil. Like we really needed to top the day off with an all you can eat salad bar and o, so many meats and preparations.
Well that pretty much sums up the Gorge Fest, and more importantly the XRAC Meetings.